Sunday, September 22, 2013

NOLA Oyster Bar in South Norwalk CT

Anyone who has been to New Orleans knows that there is a unique vibe to the city, not easy to duplicate, or replicate anywhere.

Fortunately for us in New England, Chef Dan Kardos, and the management team and their staff, have done a wonderful job of re-creating some of the ambiance of the French Quarter in South Norwalk CT at the NOLA Oyster Bar.

NOLA Oyster Bar - South Norwalk CT
NOLA Oyster Bar - South Norwalk CT

Downtown South Norwalk itself is a fun little area, where a historic waterfront district connects with urban chic, and encompasses dining, shopping and entertainment. South Norwalk, or "SoNo" has a great collection of restaurants, bars, and eclectic shops and galleries. I've heard so much about SoNo from friends who lived in the area and it was nice to finally see the downtown district and understand why they loved it so much. But I digress, back to NOLA.

As part of NOLA Oyster Bar's recent fall promotion, we were invited to sample some of their traditional menu items and signature cocktails, and, of course, an evening of fun. I was happy to see when we arrived in the SoNo area that there was ample parking in a "pay for" lot, just a half a block down from NOLA. It's great to know that finding parking isn't a problem when planning a visit!

As soon as I entered I felt a little like I had been transported back to Muriel's in the French Quarter! The exposed brickwork, the chandeliers, the wrought iron, hurricane lamps, and ample seating areas.

The only things missing were the empty table for two and the ghost of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan! Oh, there's no mummy case or seance room either! Thank goodness! Unless the Bacardi Bat room counts! LOL

We were greeted by manager Greg and PR rep Linda, and after being seated we learned a little about the history of the building and the menu from both of them, and then settled into ordering cocktails and wine.

We started with some of the signature cocktails from NOLA's specialty cocktail menu.

L-R, The Hurricane, Shrinking Violet, Leenie's Lemonade, Spice Rote

The SoNo Hurricane  is made with light rum, dark rum, blood orange, lime, pineapple, and a splash of cherry juice. The Shrinking Violet is made with Prosecco sparkling wine, violet liqueur, and lemon twists. Leenie's Lemonade is made with blueberry vodka, fresh muddled mint and lemon. Spice Route is made with Gosling's rum, Pimms fruit liqueur, ginger beer, orange bitters, and caramelized ginger. None of the cocktails were overly sweet, and the flavor of each spirit was able to shine through. My favorite of the those I tasted was Leenie's Lemonade, which had a nice citrusy and tart fresh lemon flavor.  The craft cocktails run from $8.00 to $12.00. 

From the menu, we sampled several of the "small plate" offerings, or what may be more commonly called appetizers. Each was prepared beautifully and portioned large enough for a shared appetizer, and some were suitable for a light dinner. Prices ran from $10.00 to $19.00.

CPA Beer Braised Mussels in smoked ham broth with chipotle butter and sides of toasty bread

Crab and Artichoke Fondue, made with bacon, smoked Gouda, sriracha, and crackers
Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts, made with bacon, maple, cider vinegar, and pistachios

Cornmeal Fried Oysters and Braised Pork,
over creamed spinach with pearl onion jam, and aleppo chili flakes

Butter Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle  with griddled scallions, and queso fresco

Blackened Shrimp and Pork Fried Rice, made with soy, sprouts, egg, scallions, and sesame

My favorites were the Lobster and Cornbread Waffles (say what??) but they were really wonderful! The lobster was perfectly cooked, buttery, and the combination of sauce and cornmeal in the waffle was really good; and the Fried Brussell Sprouts, which where crispy, and just a little on the sweet side, but a good sweet, not sugary sweet --  subtly sweet from the bacon and maple. 

My least favorite was probably the cornmeal oysters, and not for any reason other than I thought the cornmeal overpowered the oysters. The oysters were quite tasty, in fact very tasty, as were the accompanying creamed spinach and braised pork.

For dessert we sampled the Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pot De Creme, made with whipped cream, and roasted peanuts and pistachios.

Peanut Butter Pot De Creme
I loved that two dishes were prepared with pistachios and it made me wonder why I don't use them more in my own cooking. I love them! Why not add them to salads, or as a crispy topping to proteins.  Don't you love when eating out gives you ideas for preparing new twists for your own meals at home?  I know I do!

Instead of after dinner coffee, most of us in the group decided to have an after dinner cocktail, the Oyster Shooter, (billed as the "soon to be famous oyster shooter" - made with pepper vodka, cocktail sauce, mignonette, and a fresh oyster.

Soon to Be Famous NOLA Oyster Shooter

Holy cow! Why isn't this famous yet?  It was the perfect end to a perfect sampling! the rim was perfectly seasoned with red hot pepper, the shooter was divinely HOT, and the oyster was sweet. Our tasting ended on a wonderful note.

Afterwards we visited with the other members of the group and got to meet Chef Kardos. 

Chef Kardos, and dining companions Cooking with Jeff and ChristinaFor Love of Carrots,  That's So Jenn!,
Local Food Rocks / The Natural Princess , Talk-A-VinoConnecticut Bloggers,

My first reaction, and one I said out loud to him upon introductions, was "Oh my goodness, you're so young!"  

Was I embarrassed?   Uh.. Yes. 

Was he? I don't think so, and the more we spoke, the more impressed I became with his experience, knowledge, and his attitude towards food. He likes to push the envelope on his dishes, and his risks pay off - the food at NOLA that we sampled was wonderful, and I can't wait to return for some of his amazing sounding entrees.

Scallops with peaches, anyone? Or how about Cherry Smoked Salmon with tomato jam?  Fried Catfish with Seafood Jambalaya? Want to hear about more? Take this link to: NOLA Oyster Bar Food Menu where everything looks GREAT!

And before I close, a shout out to some of my great dining companions, new friends Jeff and Cristina from the blog Cooking with Jeff and Cristina, which highlights ways that young couples can recreate some great food at home through easy to follow recipes; Kait from For Love of Carrots, who writes about healthy living and shares some great recipes. Jenn from That's So Jenn!, who I felt I knew, and when she explained she's often a featured guest on the show, ConnecticutStyle, I knew immediately that was it! 

I also got to catch up with Alicia and Renato from Local Food Rocks / The Natural Princess, who explain local and healthy ways to eat,  Anatoli from  Talk-A-Vino, who always gives us a heads up on what wines to pair with dinner, and, last, but certainly not least, Greg and Wendy from Connecticut Bloggers, who cover everything Connecticut, and beyond! Stop by and visit their websites!

And a great big thank you for Linda for assembling this amazing event at a wonderful location with an incredible group of people! 

laissez les bons temps rouler

let the good times roll! 

68 Washington Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854 
Phone: 203-957-3352 

NOLA is open for Dinner Monday - Saturday,
Brunch - Dinner on Sunday

What small plate or entree would you like to try?

I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Disclaimer: I was invited to the NOLA promotion for a complimentary sampling, however, all views expressed herein are my own.
Nola Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. What? You went to an oyster bar and didn't have oysters on the half shell?

    1. I know!!!!! All the more reason for me to go back! Oysters, anyone?

    2. And I love the Muriel's reference! One of my favorite places to visit in the Big Easy. Did you go to the séance room when you were there? That would be a great write up!

    3. Yes...and I have a picture of me with the mummy case to prove it! LOL!!!!

  2. Gorgeous pictures! You really captured the incredible meal with both your description and photos! And...thank you so much for the mention! :)

    1. Thanks Jenn! I knew I knew you! Glad we got to meet!

  3. I'm always skeptical of New Orleans themed places, because I lived there for years so my standards are pretty high. This looks like the real deal, though. I want to try their hurricane!

    1. I think you you'll enjoy this place has such a similar vibe!


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