Monday, December 2, 2013

Restaurant Review: Nola's

Nola's - lunch on November 21, 2013
The week before Thanksgiving, I took my team out to Nola's in Palo Alto, just off University Ave.  I'd heard of Nola's before from friends who've gone there but this was my first time trying them out.  If you don't know the address, it's easy to miss as its frontage space isn't that of your typical restaurant.  Instead of opening the front door and walking into the restaurant itself, you enter a hallway and go down a paved path set between "buildings" and come upon a number of partitioned rooms, the most open one housing a fountain. If you don't know what to look for, the restaurant is easy to miss and you think you're just passing an alley way.
Once seated and you look around, you realize Nola's is set up to look like a section of Bourbon Street from New Orleans itself.  Instead of one large restaurant, it's multi-level with rooms partitioned off, making it seem like you're entering different buildings on Bourbon St.  There's also a bar area (which is very Bourbon St for anyone who's been to New Orleans).  It's not quite as glitzily tacky as the original Bourbon St but if you've never been to New Orleans before, Nola's could probably tide you over until you see the real thing.
Chicken and Cornmeal Waffles
Spicy Jambalaya
We were seated in the "courtyard" or what seemed like the center of the restaurant on its ground floor.  I ordered the chicken and waffles and thought it was delicious. The waffles came with a scoop of whipped cranberry butter and that was probably the only thing I didn't inhale on the plate as I don't care for cranberries except in my Pumpkin Upside Down Cake.  The cornmeal waffles were served hot, were thin but both tender and crisp and paired well with the chicken.  The chicken itself was tender and juicy, the way good fried chicken should be to make it worth the calories.  The gravy it came with was a trifle too spicy for me but it was still pretty tasty.
One of the salads with herbed focaccia crostini
Mama's Mac n Cheese
I forgot which sandwich this was - with sweet potato fries
It's a standing joke for our team lunches that we have to order at least 1 dessert for the team to share or preferably one for each person but I try not to pressure them (really, or at least I try not to). We'd all been working hard though and had some good appetites this time around so everyone ended up each ordering a dessert. (Ah, they make me so proud.)
N'awlins sampler: beignets, pecan pie, and bread pudding
Our waiter actually laughed at us, not unkindly but in an "are you sure?" way once we'd put in our dessert orders.  When he brought them out, we understood his amusement.  Holy cow, the desserts were huge!  As in they were literally meant for sharing but 4 people ordered 4 desserts so there was a lot, even for my dessert-queen self.
The beignets were nice fluffy yeasted fried doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar.  I can't say they were as good as Cafe du Monde's but that's a high bar to reach and they were delicious all the same. Not greasy, not too sweet (although remember I have a high tolerance for sugar) and if I wasn't already full from my entree, I would've probably eaten more than couple of bites.  From the N'awlins Sampler that one of our party ordered, I thought the bread pudding was the best.  I only tried a smidge of the pecan pie and it seemed decent but it didn't a hold a candle to the bread pudding.
Big Fat Brownie Sundae
My own dessert order was for the Red Velvet Waffles and I had them leave off the whipped cream and paid the additional $2 to have it a la mode with vanilla ice cream.  The red velvet waffles were the main reason I wanted to come to Nola's once Jim, one of my friends from a previous company, had posted a description from the menu on Facebook. Red Velvet Waffles?  Of course I was going to try it.  Unfortunately though, they weren't as good as I had hoped or expected.  I don't know if mine were overcooked as a one-off or if they were meant to be served like that but they'd been cooked too long and were dry.  The cream cheese icing helped as did the ice cream but even so, they were tough to eat and I couldn't even finish half a waffle, much less two of them.  Far, far different than the cornmeal waffles in my entree which had been cooked to perfection.  Sniff.
Red Velvet Waffles
Despite that, I'd still say overall that Nola's is pretty good.  If you want something a little different for ambiance, it's a good place to go, especially if you're the meet and mingle type (I'm not very).  But next time I'm getting the bread pudding.

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