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« New Haven Restaurant Week April 21 - 26, 2013 | Main | Friday Froth: March Madness...Beer News & Reviews »
Sunday
Mar242013

Nola Oyster Bar Brings Seafood to South Norwalk

Several weeks ago CTbites first announced the opening of Nola Oyster Bar in South Norwalk, described as a seafood restaurant with dishes from Maine to New Orleans. After my initial visit, it is apparent that much of the food is influenced by the great flavors and traditions of New Orleans, but the creative interpretations are singularly of Chef Dan Kardos.

Exposed brick walls, wood and tin columns, and wrought iron rails dominate the interior with white “antique” chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to create a very New Orleans visual. The front area includes a large, arced granite-topped bar that seats 10, plus a large reclaimed “Bankers’ Table” that seats an additional eight guests overlooking the floor to ceiling windows. The center section of the restaurant overlooks the kitchen, plus the rear room is available for regular dining or a private event.  

Nola Oyster Bar is a place for fun, drinks and great food.

The kitchen is under the direction of Chef Dan Kardos (The Whelk, Harvest Supper). The menu is divided into four sections: raw bar, small plates, salads, and entrees.  The starters include raw oysters, clams and tuna Crudo, chowder, gumbo, seafood pan roast, tacos, mac and cheese, plus greens and sides with traditional salads and other unique combinations. The entrées include two burgers (tuna or beef), tacos, sandwiches, shrimp and grits, scallops, skate and several meat options.

The “Tuna Crudo” is a delightfully light choice to start to the meal. Thin slices of tuna are topped with a sauce comprised of soy, hot sesame, jalapeño and candied ginger. While a sesame-soy combination is a traditional accompaniment to raw tuna, Chef Kardos takes the dish in a unique direction with the addition of the candied ginger. This sweet component creates a distinctive and delicious flavor combination when combined with the saltiness of the soy and the spiciness of the diced jalapeño.   

The “Black Kale Salad” includes pears, sautéed squash, toasted hazelnuts, and pepitas and is another delicious dish to start the evening. The kale has a rich earthy flavor plus a touch of bite, and the crunchiness of the dish increases with the toasted pepitas and hazelnuts. The thinly sliced pears are a great addition to the dish, bringing a wonderful level of sweetness. The entire salad is beautifully dressed in a light citrusy dressing. I really enjoy how the sweetness of the pepitas and the pear complement the earthiness of the kale. The squash, unfortunately, does not add to either the flavors or the textures of the dish.

For a soup with a hint of spice, Nola Oyster Bar offers a delicious “Spicy Seafood Gumbo” with shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and Andouille. This rendition would make the French Quarter proud. A deep rich base made with a dark roux brings deep, rich flavors when combined with the delicateness of the traditional seafood additions. The oysters and mussels bring brininess to the gumbo, and the shrimp add a touch of sweetness. The spiciness of the Andouille sausage kicks up the heat just a little. I would characterize the flavor as sweet-spicy, but not too intense.   

The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffles” is the decadent option that combines breakfast and dinner. Chef Kardos’ begins with two delicious cornbread waffles topped with large pieces of succulent, butter-poached lobster. These are surrounded by one of the most flavorful brown sauces that I have ever tasted, reminiscent of those served on New Orleans’ famous Grilled Shrimp. The dish is garnished with a few grilled scallions and finished with Queso Fresco cheese. The waffles are wonderfully sweet, crispy on the exterior and moist and soft on the interior. The lobster is perfectly poached and full of sweet buttery flavor and texture. The scallions bring just a touch of bitterness and the melted cheese creates smoothness to the dish. This is one of the most memorable lobster dishes I have tasted in a very long time and should not be missed.

Remember the raves of Chef Kardos’ hamburger at Harvest Supper in New Canaan? The “Saugatuck Butchery Dry Aged Burger with Hand Cut Fries” at Nola is even better. It starts with dry aged beef from Saugatuck Butchery and then topped with slices of Sugardale bacon, XO Beemster cheese, oak tree shitake mushrooms, black pepper mayo and served on a Challah roll from Wave Hill Bakery. The flavor of the meat is outstanding and the toppings are perfect complements. The cheese is flavorful and the sautéed mushrooms add an earthy tone. The thick-cut bacon is perfectly cooked but I found it a little too salty for the other ingredients. The sweet Challah roll and the pepper mayo are both great ways to envelop this fantastic burger.  The hand-cut curly fries are scrumptious, fun and a wonderful addition to the burger; and the burger is a fantastic accompaniment to the unique varieties of beer.

The draft beers feature eight unique varieties including Maine Beer Company Mean Old Tom Aged Stout, Two Roads Workers Comp Saison, Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale, Schlitz Lager "60's Formula," Berkshire Brewing Drayman Porter and Sixpoint Brewery Righteous Rye Ale. Ten wines are available by the glass, plus forty wine labels ranging in price from $28 to $100.

After a couple of months Nola Oyster Bar is producing some incredibly delicious food with inspired twists on New Orleans’ classics.

Nola Oyster Bar

68 Washington St. - Norwalk, CT - (203) 957-3352

 

Nola Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Reader Comments (19)

You go to an oyster bar and don't even check out the oysters? Nice J

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteramused

Paid Ad? Where's the "Loved", "Liked" and "Not a Re-order" Section???. SMH.

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFigures

Good evening amused and Figures.

Sorry, but no I did not try the oysters. Next time A and I will report back.

No, this is NOT a paid ad nor an unpaid ad. This describes five outrageously delicious dishes. None fell outside the "loved" category I have used in the last few reviews, so the list would be

Loved - All those described in the article.

But in fairness to your comment and my previous statement to rate, upon my return to Nola, which will be soon, I will satisfy your suggestion and gladly characterize additional items more clearly into these three groupings, including the oysters.

Thanks for the comments and suggestions.

I loved my first visit here. I ordered 3 "small" plates instead of a main. I had the gumbo Jeff mentions (great), the mussels/broth, which had a nice heat that elevated them over the usual preparation. And finally, my favorite dish, the crawfish pork fried rice plate. Just a great combination of flavors and a nice twist on some classic themes. I washed it down with the Green Flash IPA which I was really glad to see in the area since I hadn't had any locally since I tried it out in California last year. Good vibe, inventive menu (not dumbed down and some good heat where called for), and at least so far, solid execution. Off to a good start in my book.

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Sounds wonderful! Hoping NOLA does well...SoNo needs a new anchor on that corner....to support the other excellent long time restaurants, Chocopologie, MATCH, SoNo Baking , Pasta Nostra, and The Ginger Man!
Wishing them best of luck.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersushifan

Must get here soon! Thanks for the drool inducing review!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermla19

This is a New Orleans style seafood restaurant and they don't have crawfish or an actual raw bar? Just a "raw bar" section of the menu? Sounds like a crappy cop out to me.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Catner

@John Catner,

Please re-read both the opening sentence as well as the original story a few weeks ago. Nola is "a seafood restaurant with dishes from Maine to New Orleans." I totally agree that having those 4 letters as the centerpiece of the name skews the interpretation to the French Quarter, Warehouse, Garden and Uptown districts in New Orleans; and I was incredibly fortunate visiting my daughter over the last few years while she attended college in New Orleans and ate in some of the great restaurants down there.

Without getting into the dialogue of Oyster Bar versus oysters at great New Orleans restaurants (you can have some of the best oysters in New Orleans at a great restaurant, i.e. Luc) or whether crawfish (a New Orleans tradition) anoints a restaurant New Orleans (Brigtsen's comes to minds as an accompaniment to Chef Frank's daily catch) the food at Nola is delicious.

Please give it a shot with an open mind. If you like the food please come back and let us know and if you do not, please do as well. To throw out a place where the food is fantastic because the neon lights above the door may not be 100% spot on seems like you are missing a great opportunity.

Just 2-cents from someone who misses the bi-monthly visits to New Orleans and has alligator jambalaya in his freezer.

Ciao

Do you have an idea of the prices for those dishes? There aren't any prices on their website from what I can tell.

Thanks.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSanders

I will follow a favorite chef anywhere. Sadly, I have learned that just because a talent is listed as exec. chef, it does not mean that what winds up on my plate is worth the drive from anywhere (Chef Saito @ Hudson Grill was the last one that comes to mind). Well, NOLA broke the curse. Worth the drive from anywhere. I went with moderate expectations, the SBC name conjures up bar food. Forget about that. Had the lobster and waffle, pork belly, fried chix, steak and a bunch of appetizers/small plates. EVERY single dish was a hit, great seasonings, ample portions, nothing was over cooked, sauces were rich but not overpowering. Just on that meal alone I would run back but the clincher for me was the server was kind enough to turn down the blasting music when we asked if it possible to do so. I understand the importance of good music in a bar at 9 pm but when diners are trying to have a conversation at 7, we need to be able to hear each other. When we were first greeted by our server, even he had a hard time hearing us. That little gesture goes a long way. NOLA is a great addition to SONO.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterekg

@ Sanders

The prices on the night I was there:

Tuna Crudo 17; Spicy Seafood Gumbo 13; Black Kale & Squash 13; Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffles 30 (the other entrees were in the 20s); and the Burger 16.

Hope that helps.

Remember the ingredients are fresh and in this market the prices change daily so they may be different on the day you go.

Ciao.

The burger is sublime!
Haven't been in a few weeks and it looks like there have been some menu additions. Looking forward to going back.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I went friday for the second time.
I can not really share the enthusiasm of the previous poster.

We had a reservation for 6.30. Arrived on time, place was not that busy yet. REM was blasting very very loud.
After 30 minutes of that I asked whether the 'CD' was stuck. The hostess said they use 'Pandora'.
Which restaurant allows an internet service to decide their music/atmosphere? To me that is just lazy. Anyway, at least she or somebody else clicked something because the music changed and I could hear the waiter.
Unlike the first time (opening weekend) when our party tried this place, this time they did have oysters. We ordered some local ones since the others from RI called 'blondes' were 3.50 a pop. May be they were wearing high heels or something, but 3.50 for an oyster?
It turned out that our waiter did not get the order right (music may be to loud?), so the oysters we did order arrived with a bunch of small plates instead as an appetizer.

We were the second table to place an order that night and it took for ever for the oysters or salads to arrive.
NoLa also does not serve bread we learned; special request (begging) only!

When the food did arrive the Gumbo had a nice kick, the salads are crunchy (dressing a little heavy), the clam chowder was good and the burgers were fine.
Using meat from Craft Butchery in Saugatuck makes it impossible to not deliver a great product.

Last time I had the skate; didn't see it this time.
Not to many seafood options - no trout, no swordfish, no cod, no salmon, no snapper etc.

The service is nice but very confused, I don't think they have worked in the industry before. I understand that they can be challenged opening weekend, but now?
The bartender knows what he is doing.
Anyway, it will be a few months before we go back.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmex

@ JFood/Bites: I have been a CT bites reader for three years now. I can't believe I just came across "your approach" just now. CT Bites writes, " If we happen upon an exceptionally bad dining experience, of which there have been plenty, we'll usually opt to skip reviewing the establishment altogether". That sounds like your reviews aren't too critical, if not advertising, which is why I have always wondered why your reviews are so annoyingly positive and unaccountable. But I do check your site for new events, restaurants, etc, but the "reviews" are taken with a grain of salt!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteramused

@amused

A few weeks ago I addressed this issue and agreed that my reviews would include a listing under three categories, Really Liked, Liked and Not a Reorder. Here are the reviews since these three categories were introduced and you will note dishes in each category.

Eos
http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/3/3/eos-greek-cuisine-in-stamford-revamps-menu.html

Picador
http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/1/27/picador-opens-in-new-canaan-tapas.html

Basso Cafe
http://www.ctbites.com/home/2012/11/18/basso-cafe-venezuela-italy-meet-in-norwalk.html

Bar Sugo (in the comments)
http://www.ctbites.com/home/2012/10/28/bar-sugo-opens-in-norwalk-w-authentic-italian.html

As far as this review is concerned, only five delicious dishes were sampled, and the only ingredient I did not like was the squash in the Kale as stated in the review.

CTbites will continue to provide our guide to good choices in Fairfield and in neighboring counties.

Ciao

Three words: Lobster And Waffles. That dish was more memorable than Per Se's famous butter poached lobster. All the small plates we tried were also divine (mussels in beer broth, oyster pan roast, clam poutine). Great local beer list, too. Polite, welcoming service. Can't wait to go back and sample more. So lucky to have both Nola and the Whelk cooking such interesting seafood plates in our 'hood!

April 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermla19

I have followed this guy for a while...consistently innovative and pallet pleasing. Chef Kardos has been at the helm of many a Fairfield County restaurants, all of which, have been phenomenal, but i must say this one has been a stand out. He has always brought a breath of fresh air to the CT dining scene, and NOLA was of course right on par with the trail of breadcrumbs that Chef kardos has left around the area. Between the tuna hamachi, shrimp and fried rice, lobster and waffles and various other specials that he runs, were more than mouth watering. Along with his beer and wine choices, and general ambiance, NOLA seems to be a dining experience that, as of now, is tough to rival in southern CT.

April 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdiplomat

Decent food, cheap decor, lousy service and a revolving door of staff. Been here three times and never seen the same manager or waitstaff. Much prefer the whelk for seafood, outstanding service and atmosphere.

June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhillyfood

I dined at Nola the other night for restaurant week. The food was poor, wine list reminiscent of a chain restaurant, the service slow and overall not worthy of being considered one of the better restaurants in Fairfield County.

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterScottyJ

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