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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

New Orleans Part 2: NOLA Nourishment

Dooky Chase

Picking up on the same theme from my last post, I continued on in my quest for the best food in NOLA. I started in the Treme, the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States, founded in 1783. It was here that I found the best gumbo I have ever tasted.

You cannot talk about gumbo in NOLA without talking about Dooky Chase restaurant and the Creole gumbo they serve. This gumbo was created and perfected by the late, Leah Chase, a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award winner, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 96.

Ms. Chase used to proclaim that she could solve the world's problems with her gumbo. Maybe she was right. For seven decades, Ms. Chase served her gumbo to family and friends, civil rights leaders, freedom fighters, presidents, locals and tourists, and received rave reviews.

So famous are Leah Chase and her gumbo, that the character of Tiana in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" is inspired by Ms. Chase. To pay her further homage, Disney is converting their Splash Mountain ride into a Princess and the Frog-themed ride, which will be called "Tiana's Bayou Adventure." In creating the new ride, Disney has collaborated with Stella Chase, the daughter of Leah Chase, and part-owner of Dooky Chase restaurant.

Gumbo

After trying the gumbo at Dooky Chase, I can see what all the hype is about. The varied, robust flavors are artfully layered and each element is cooked perfectly.

Red Beans and Rice

Dooky Chase also offers many other dishes, like the meaty, hearty, red beans and rice.

Fried Chicken

The fried chicken at Dooky Chase may be as famous as the gumbo. It is hailed by many as New Orleans best, fried chicken. It is light, crispy, moist, flavorful and definitely superior to most fried chicken I have had.

Behind the main dining room, is the restaurant's bar.

Treme Mint Julep

Stop over before or after your meal for a drink in the cozy space. I ordered a mint julep at the urging of the bartender, who insisted that Dooky Chase makes some of the best. The drink was indeed delicious. Though I didn't try it, Leah Chase also has a signature drink on the menu called "Leah's Creole Crown Cocktail" which is also said to be very tasty.


Compère Lapin

Compère Lapin is the creation of Top Chef alumna, Nina Compton. Ms. Compton, who is a native of St. Lucia, brings the flavors of the Caribbean to New Orleans with skill and style. The name of the restaurant comes from Caribbean folktales featuring the adventures of a sassy and troublesome rabbit named Compère Lapin.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter and Bacon Butter

Broiled Shrimp with Calabrian Butter

Hamachi Tartar with Jerk Pineapple and Fried Okra

Given the quality and originality of every dish I had at Compère Lapin, it is no surprise that Nina Compton has been a James Beard nominee, semifinalist and the winner for Best Chef South. If you are in NOLA, stop in for Caribbean-influenced, Gulf Coast cuisine, that will tantalize your palate. Be sure to make a reservation because even eight years after its opening, this continues to be one of the hottest restaurants in NOLA.


GW Fins

No matter which local I asked, GW Fins came up again and again as the suggestion for where to go for great seafood in NOLA. This white linen restaurant is dedicated to its seafood and the dedication has paid off.

Lobster Dumplings with White Fish Mousseline, Tomatoes and Lobster Butter

I started with the lobster dumplings, as I had been told they were a "must-have." These dumplings were so delicate, and yet packed with so much flavor. They are served swimming in a rich sauce that was so yummy, I wanted to ship some home.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartar with Mango, Avocado, Wasabi and Pine Nuts

It was hard to choose what to order, as there were so many enticing seafood options on the menu. GW Fins receives locally sourced, fresh fish daily. For my second dish, I chose a raw preparation so I could savor and experience that freshness, which unequivocally came through. The next time I come to town, I will order the famed Skalibut (a scallop-encrusted filet of halibut served with royal red shrimp risotto).


Herbsaint

Herbsaint has been serving its unique blend of Louisiana, French and Italian cuisine since 2000. Chef Donald Link's contemporary and seasonal cuisine earned him a James Beard Award for Best Chef South.

Housemade Spaghetti with Guanciale and Fried-Poached Farm Egg

One of the most popular dishes at Herbsaint is the spaghetti, which is the restaurant's very creative take on a traditional carbonara.

The dish is topped with a fried-poached egg which, when cut in half, oozes warm yolk, coating the already creamy, guanciale-laden pasta with more decadence. This pasta is actually a starter, but given how rich it is, the small, appetizer portion was more than enough to satiate me.


Superior Seafood

Superior Seafood, located on St. Charles Avenue, was recommended to me as a great happy hour spot.

The restaurant is buzzing with energy from people meeting up with friends and colleagues, and others gathering to watch sports on one of several TV's. The Parisian-inspired bistro has a menu so large, that it would have overwhelmed me had I not arrived already knowing exactly what I wanted to order.

Gulf Oysters

Oysters! During happy hour, these gems are half price and oh so yummy.

Char-Grilled Oysters with Garlic, Herbs, Butter and Parmesan

I tried the char-grilled oysters as well, upon the recommendation of several diners. Though I preferred the raw oysters, these were also very good.


Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits

Bacchanal is described as a Bywater wine shop, but it is so much more.

In addition to a great selection of wine and small plates like salt cod, clams and sardines, Bacchanal also serves cocktails in their upstairs bar ...

... and a variety of snacks that you can choose from downstairs.

Once you have made your selection, Bacchanal will create a charcuterie platter for you that includes your cheese or meat selection, along with additional, complimentary snacks and spreads.

You can enjoy your wine, cocktail, small plates and/or charcuterie, outside in their charming courtyard while listening to live music. Bacchanal is a perfect place to spend an afternoon relaxing alone or with friends, while enjoying great weather, music, food and wine.

Adolfos

Adolfos is a Creole-Italian restaurant located on Frenchmen Street. (More on Frenchmen Street in my next post.)

You'll find the entrance to the restaurant behind a red door. From there, you enter what feels like someone's small foyer, travel up a flight of stairs, and there you'll find the homey, dining room located just above the Apple Barrel.

Cannelloni with Spinach and Italian Sausage

The portions here are huge. Knowing this, I chose to order the appetizer cannelloni, a dish which they are known for. $12 and one cannelloni later, I felt as stuffed as the pasta. The food is delicious and all the locals are fans, so either arrive early, or prepare for a wait.


Willa Jean

Willa Jean is the creation of Chef Kelly Fields who lovingly named the restaurant after her grandmother.

Fried Chicken Sandwich

The restaurant is open 7 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Diners can't go wrong with any dish like the fried chicken sandwich, which was crispy, moist and just a little bit sweet as a result of the Hawaiian roll it is served on. The sandwich was excellent, but was not the reason I visited the restaurant.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made the trip for the carbs and sugar in the form of some of the most tasty, chocolate chip cookies, and the best presentation, I have seen. Willa Jean serves up three, freshly baked, warm, chocolate chip cookies, aside a cold, glass of milk and an egg-beater whisk, onto which a generous gob of cookie batter clings. The cookies are made with three different kinds of Valrhona chocolate and the milk is infused with Tahitian vanilla bean.

I made it through the cookie batter and just one bite of one of the three, indulgent cookies.

This restaurant was my final stop before boarding a plane back home. I packed the rest of my dessert to go, so I could bring a little bit of NOLA sweetness back to Cali.


That concludes my NOLA, dining experiences. Next up, I'll share about the other, exciting adventures I had in New Orleans.

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