We were invited by the NOLA Oyster Bar to a complimentary sample tasting of their fall menu recently. They are located at 68 Washington Street, which is on the corner of Washington and Main, in South Norwalk, CT. They have a neon street sign marking their location, similar to what one could see on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. By the way: NOLA is short for New Orleans, Louisiana. Have you got the idea of what type of cuisine they may serve?
NOLA Oyster Bar hours of operation:
Monday through Thursday: 5- 10 PM
Friday and Saturday: 5-11 PM
Sunday: Brunch 11:30 AM, Dinner 4-9 PM
NOLA Oyster Bar is owned by the same individuals who brought you Connecticut’s Southport Brewing Company. NOLA menu centers around American coastal cuisine with a creole spin.
For this menu tasting we didn’t have raw oysters or oysters on the half shell. It was just a menu tasting after all and there are so many things we could have tried. We let the chef choose for us.
The restaurant and bar is wrapped in large windows providing a view of the streets of South Norwalk and an open feeling to the place. The lower level offers bar and dining areas while the upper level offers additional seating nooks and a view into the kitchen. The decor, which includes dark wood and leather seating, gives me the feeling of being in, what I imagine, a New Orleans restaurant.
NOLA’s creole and costal infused menu is created by Executive Chef Dan Kardos. Chef Kardos is no stranger to Connecticut, having worked at: Chef Bill Taibe’s Le Farm and The Whelk restaurants in Westport, Harvest Supper in New Canaan, and Bar Rosso in Stamford.
A sampling of their menu:
- raw bar favorites, including freshly shucked oysters and Gulf Coast shrimp
- spicy seafood gumbo and chowder variety
- crawfish risotto with mascarpone
- Blackened shrimp over pork fried rice
- “Norm Blooms’ Fried Oyster BLT” bold seafood jambalaya
- on the lighter side, one can enjoy roasted branzino, kale and squash salad, or fried Brussels sprouts
Hospitality is the of main concern for NOLA’s general manager Greg Pettinella, who checked in on us throughout the evening, insuring that our request were met.
We started our gastronomic journey / adventure with a SONO Hurricane and Spice Route cocktails. The SONO Hurricane is a light and refreshing combination of: light rum, dark rum, blood orange, lime, pineapple, and a splash of cherry juice.
Where as the Spice Route is a tangy combination of: Gosling’s rum, Pimms, ginger beer, orange bitter, and caramelized ginger.
Later in the evening we tried a Toasted Amber from Half Brewery in Stanford, CT. It is a medium-bodied, unfiltered American Amber having chocolate notes with a bold malt presence and a toasted finish.
Others at our table enjoyed:
Shrinking Violet: prosecco, violet liqueur, and lemon
French Quarter: rye whiskey, cardamaro, and old fashioned bitters
Leenie’s Lemonade: Banger 1 Maine blueberry vodka, fresh muddled mint and lemon, and simple syrup
Sparkling Cosmo: prosecco, cranberry, and triple sec
Our culinary adventure begun with CPA beer braised mussels in a smoked ham broth, chipotle butter, and toast. The broth served with the mussels was simply amazing. The slight heat brought by the chipotle butter complimented the mussels quite well. A few of us at the table were battling to soak up the broth with the toast.
Up next was Fried Brussels sprouts with bacon, maple, cider vinegar, and pistachio. No, these were not deep fried in a batter, but beautiful caramelized by pan frying. These were indescribably delicious. Besides they were cooked in bacon, need I say more? They look quite hideous and at first glance maybe just a little bit like bugs with legs but what flavor – what crunchy goodness you will taste when you bite into one of these. You won’t be able to put them down or eat just one!
As we were finishing the sprouts, out came the Crab and artichoke fondue with bacon, smoked gouda, and sriracha and crackers to spread it on. The fondue had good size pieces of crab and artichoke which married well the smokiness of the gouda. The sriracha added a slight heat.
Moving on, we were treated to cornmeal fried oysters and braised pork on a bed of creamed spinach with pearl onion jam and chili flakes. The oysters were lightly coated with the cornmeal and fried perfectly. The braised was tender and juicy. The creamed spinach was not your typical variety that is heavy on the cream, this version had little cream and more spinach. The chili flakes gave a nice little “heat” and the jam provided an onion “sweetness”.
Have you heard of chicken and waffles, well, we had Poached lobster and cornbread waffle. The butter-poached lobster, griddled scallions, and queso fresco were all sitting on a cornbread waffle. The sweetness of the lobster and cornbread waffle, as one individual in our group said “I could eat this as a dessert” made this to be more on the sweet side than savory.
The last stop on the savory adventure was the Blackened shrimp and pork fried rice. The pork fried rice had bits of sprouts, egg, and scallions, and was flavored with soy and sesame.
The shrimp was “blackened” just right and cooked to right level of doneness.
On the sweet portion of our culinary adventure, we were treated to two desserts: Maple and Pistachio Panna Cotta and Chocolate and peanut butter pot de creme. The maple and pistachio Panna Cotta was accompanied by apple jam and pistachios. The jam had thinly sliced apple pieces. The pistachios provided a “crunch” to the dessert.
The chocolate and peanut butter pot de creme was topped with whipped cream and roasted peanuts. I felt the chocolate slightly overpowered the peanut butter in the pot de creme.
No dinner party would be complete without a toast at the end of the night. At NOLA’s you can order the “Soon to be Famous” Oyster Shooter, complete with raw oyster and spicy mignonette on the rim.
Our culinary journey had many wonderful stops on the way, each offering unique and flavorful dishes. The fried Brussels sprouts were a huge hit with all and something I highly recommend trying along with the CPA beer braised mussels. As we were chatting during the evening, several of us mentioned other dishes on their menu that looked enticing. Maybe the next time we visit NOLA, I will just order a bowl of the broth from the CPA beer braised mussels and fried Brussels sprouts.
What a great night; good drinks and great food enjoyed with fellow bloggers and friends.
If you are near NOLA on a Sunday, stopped in for brunch and enjoy $15 bottomless minosas or partake in “Fairfield Counties Best” Bloody Mary bar. Or if it is a weekday between 5:00 and 7:00 pm, stop in for Happy Hour when they offer 6 wine choices, 6 craft cocktail choices, 6 appetizer choices: all for only $6 each.