While I realize that everyone and their brother’s mother are waxing poetic about Shaya, I just can’t help jumping on the bandwagon. After all, Alon Shaya was awarded the 2015 James Beard for Best Chef: South and he is the undeniably creative force behind one of Downtown New Orleans’ most popular restaurants Domenica. So I’m getting on the praise train, not only for the above reasons, but also because Shaya is next in line on my (pitifully delayed) blogging schedule and because the restaurant is, without a doubt, fabulous.
Right after Shaya first opened in February, I pushed John out of his comfort zone (read: desk chair absorbed in a video game) and dragged him out to have lunch with me on Magazine Street. We arrived fairly early, but the restaurant was already packed. Since it was still rather cool, we opted to sit out in the courtyard which was empty when we were seated, but filled quickly as the afternoon progressed.
Though we wanted to order almost everything on the menu, we finally narrowed it down. Lunch began with a plate of warm, just-out-of-the-wood-fired-oven pita bread that was so delicious, it literally altered my definition. It was served with a small dish of olive oil, vinegar and sesame seeds, and though it was tasty, we had other plans for our bread.
In the “For the Table” section of the menu, we selected three different items that (I believe) were meant to accompany the fresh pita. We chose roasted beets (with cardamom I think), Ikra or paddlefish caviar atop a thick dollop of labneh, and another dish of the labneh with peppers and radishes. We also chose the Curried Fried Cauliflower Hummus with caramelized onion and cilantro. These dishes with the pita bread turned our little table party for two into a veritable feast! It was more than enough food for lunch, but because our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, we had also ordered a couple entrees.
So, while we were ready to push the table back and pat our stomachs in commiseration, John’s order of lamb kebabs arrived along with my Matzo Ball Soup. The lamb was delicious! Even full, we had no difficulty inhaling the tender kebabs that were juicy, well-seasoned and served with tzatziki and pine nuts. The Matzo Ball Soup made with slow-cooked duck (normally made with chicken) knocked my socks off, but after everything else we simply couldn’t finish, although I must say we made a good dent.
Yes, we had eaten enough for four and yes, we were groaning, but you know I couldn’t leave without dessert and we didn’t regret that decision … not one bit. We ordered the “Milk & Honey” which turned out to be a labneh cheesecake served with burnt honey ice cream and granola. Cool, creamy, soothing and sweet, this dessert blew us away and even after I put down my spoon, John happily inhaled what was left. I can’t wait to go back…