There are few cuisines that are under-represented in Fairfield County.  One of these is Cajun food made famous in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.  A blend of French, Caribbean and other European and African elements, Cajun cuisine is as warm and comforting as the area where it hails from.  As you can imagine, we were thrilled to hear that a New Orleans inspired restaurant opened recently in South Norwalk.  Cristina and I had a unique opportunity to get a chance to try quite of the few items that the chef, Dan Kardos has created that blend classic Cajun dishes with creative additions.

We began our experience with a round of cocktails.  Cristina got into New Orleans spirit quickly by having an oyster shooter which was essentially an oyster swimming in a Bloody Mary.  They even rimmed the shooter with a smoky, pepper and salt  mixture that set the stage perfectly for the shot.  I had the Blood Orange Margarita which had fresh blood orange juice and a spicy jalapeño simple syrup.   Both of these were excellent ways to start off the meal and get us into a New Orleans, festive mood.

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The Blood Orange Margarita – Sauza blue tequila, fresh blood orange, simple syrup, jalapeño syrup

image (7)The Oyster Shooter – Vodka, bloody mary, & an oyster

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Leenie’s Lemonade – Hanger 1 blueberry vodka, fresh muddled mint & lemon

We continued on to sample almost all of the small plates on the menu.  The Poached Lobster and Cornbread Waffle was certainly a fan favorite.  With exceptionally cooked lobster and a waffle that perfectly soaked up the sauce it was served in, Cristina and I were at a loss for words.  I guess Chef Dan realized that Southerners were onto something with the whole chicken and waffle craze, so why not go big and add lobster.  Clearly a wise decision…Make sure you give it a go when you head to NOLA.

image (12)Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle

We then sampled the CPA Beer Braised Mussels in a smoked ham broth, chipotle butter and toast.  This was another excellent choice with an amazing smoky flavor in the broth, perfect for dipping the toast.  The mussels were very flavorful and tender.  These were up there with some of the best mussels I’ve had out anywhere.

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CPA Beer Braised Mussels

Kicking up the spice and in true New Orleans tradition, we had the privilege of tasting the Blackened Shrimp and Pork Fried Rice.  The fried rice being a welcome departure from the traditional Cajun rice, marrying perfectly with the spicy, blackened shrimp.  The rice included soy, sprouts, egg, scallions and sesame to give it an Asian feel.

image (13)Blackened Shrimp & Pork Fried Rice

One thing that New Orleans is famous for is its oysters.  Whether they’re served raw, fried, or perhaps Rockefeller, they are mainstay in the Big Easy.  True to that passion, NOLA offers not only a full raw bar of about five different varieties, but Cornmeal Fried Oysters with Braised Pork.  I know, oysters normally aren’t served with pork, but trust Chef Dan here because it actually pairs quite well.  In addition, creamed spinach pearl onion jam and aleppo chili flakes contribute to bringing this dish to the next level.  This is a must try for sure!

image (11)Cornmeal Fried Oysters & Braised Pork

We had a couple more small plates including the Crab and Artichoke Fondue and the Fried Brussels Sprouts.  The Fondue was a bit too heavy for our style and not our favorite thing on the menu.  The Fried Brussels Sprouts were an interesting take which incorporated bacon (always a plus), maple, cider vinegar, and pistachios.  The overall blend of flavors were a nice blend of salty and sweet.  Our only complaint was that the sprouts were a bit too oily as a result of the frying.

image (10)Crab & Artichoke Fondue

image (9)Fried Brussels Sprouts

After all of these small plates, we managed to make room for dessert.  We tried the Maple & Pistachio Panna Cotta and the Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pot de Creme.  I enjoyed the Panna Cotta as it also boasted an apple jam which tasted was more like baked apples.  The maple and pistachios brought a nice sweetness and great texture.  Cristina, more of the peanut butter lover of the two of us, really enjoyed the Pot de Creme.  Although not particularly Cajun, these desserts were certainly not a bad way to end your New Orleans dining experience.

image (15)Maple & Pistachio Panna Cotta

image (14)Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pot de Creme

After what seemed like a never ending parade of goodies, we finally headed home to think about everything that was sent out our way.  After digesting both the massive amounts of food and insights that NOLA had to offer, we agreed on a few things.  First, we miss New Orleans and need to go back very soon.  Second, lobster and waffles are a new favorite combo.  Third, for a nice night out with some great Cajun inspired cuisine and New Orleans spirit, NOLA is probably your best option in the Fairfield County area.  Be ready to spend money, as it is not inexpensive, but you will definitely leave feeling fulfilled and likely ready for a nap!

-Jeff

NOLA Oyster Bar and Restaurant

Website: http://www.nolact.com/

Address: 68 Washington Street, Norwalk, CT 06854

Phone: 203-957-3352

Do they take reservations? Yes – Open Table

Attire?  Smart casual

Vibe?  Modern, Hip, Medium Nose

Hours:

Monday CLOSED, Tuesday 5:00-12:00 AM, Wednesday 5:00-12:00 AM, Thursday 5:00-12:00 AM, Friday 5:00-1:00 AM, Saturday 5:00-1:00 AM, Sunday 11:30 AM-10:00 PM