NOLA is the accepted US acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana and also describes the theme and vibe of the “dining bar” located in an historic East End market store.
The food menu is short and offers a mix of Creole, Cajun and Soul dishes for sharing. Unless you’ve visited the southern United States or you’re an adventurous cook, dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya will be a new experience and the Nola menu may take some explaining.
Today, the difference between the three cuisines is somewhat blurred and the Nola menu doesn’t differentiate, but the context is basically this: Creole food originated in New Orleans and is richer and more elegant with classical French influences; Cajun food is more rustic in style with dishes dictated by what was able to be trapped, fished or grown in the country; and with its roots in African slavery, Soul food historically made the best of “throwaway food” such as hog jowls, chitterlings (intestines) and pigs’ feet.
When InDaily visited, chef Adam Hudson (ex Botantic Gardens Restaurant and Daniel O’Connell Hotel) was away on a field trip to New Orleans and the southern states of America, and we were told to expect some new menu items when he returns.
The vibe in the downstairs bar and dining area was chilled with a varied lunch crowd of people who were happy to sit and wait at the bar for a table to become free. Cutlery and hot sauce are supplied in baskets on tables.
Favourite dish: Nola fried chicken ($10). A basket of tender and juicy deep-fried boneless chicken pieces with a piquant tomato and coriander dipping sauce – Hudson must have found out the Colonel’s secret herbs and spices.
Other dishes: Polenta Fried Tomatoes ($15). Four crisp polenta-crusted tomato slices with a mayonnaise-style dipping sauce. Even though the menu didn’t state the colour, we were surprised to find the tomatoes were red rather than green. The polenta crust was a bit too thick, but the tomatoes were tasty, particularly when dipped in the mayo. Next time we would choose the Polenta Fried Okra ($15) to get a real taste of the south.
Collard Greens ($13). This was a bowl of what looked and tasted like chopped rainbow chard cooked in a broth of smoked hock with ham pieces and a dash of vinegar. A comforting and fortifying dish, but on reflection, the Black-Eyed Peas and Charred Corn ($8) may have been more colourful and suited to the warm weather.
Cajun Mushroom Gumbo ($15). We can see why they say Cajun food is more country in style – this thick, salty and sour stew of mushrooms, celery, capsicum and onion is served with rice on the side that has been sautéed with roasted spices. It was tasty dish, but very much something you might have at a farmhouse table on a cold night. We regretted not choosing the Blackened Fish and Hopped Citrus Fizz ($15), as the spiced fish in a sour citrus dressing sounds fresher and lighter.
Something sweet/to drink: There is only one dessert listed on the menu at Nola – a Chocolate Cookie Brownie served with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream ($8) – but the drinks list is massive. There’s a rotating list of 16 tap beers, more than 75 whiskies and seven different types of Moonshine for those who really want to get into the spirit of things. We had a bottle of Abita Root Beer ($5), a soft drink made from cane sugar in Louisiana by the famous beer brewer. Growing up with American TV, we’d always wanted to try root beer and were surprised to find it doesn’t taste much different from Woodroofe’s “Big Sars” sarsaparilla.
Nola is unpretentious and cool, with a menu is definitely catered towards the beer drinker. We will go back to try the Po’boys (baguette-style sandwiches filled with beef brisket, onion rings, smoked wild boar meatballs and served with fresh hand-cut potato crisps; $13) – and a beer or two.
14 Vardon Avenue, Adelaide
Open Tuesday to Thursday, 12pm to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 12pm to 2am; Sunday, 12pm to midnight. No bookings.
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