Monday, February 29, 2016

Shaya, New Orleans

Arguably the hardest restaurant to get a decent reservation at in town, Shaya serves modern Israeli cuisine by Alon Shaya and John Besh. Yes, this restaurant probably has reservations lined up so that you can next get a table Monday evening at 4:30 in June. I may be exaggerating, but not by too much.

TL;DR -- great food, better pita. 

So, was it worth it? Let me tell you. Nestled in the back of a white building adorned with ocean blue gas lamps on Magazine Street is a wood burning oven that spits out steaming hot pita bread that is constantly refilled for your pleasure and gluttony. (Warning: I will be praising this pita incessantly throughout the rest of this post.) I heard that the pita was good, but I didn't expect it to be that good. Every time our waitress brought us over a fresh loaf, I swear it was fresher and fluffier than the last. I even complimented the oven master (I made that up) on his amazing job and asked him what temperature I needed to get my oven at home to replicate this bready ambrosia -- the answer is 650 - 700F. Anyways, good thing I planned the meal around having amazing bread and veered away from all the carby menu choices. 

Henok is not the strictest vegan in the book, but vegan enough that eating out in New Orleans/ Louisiana/ the south tends to be a challenge. So thank goodness for ethnic cuisine that doesn't have cheese or pork bits intermingled in every recipe. There were more than enough options on the menu that are both vegetarian and vegan friendly here at Shaya, making us both happy campers (I gave up eating a lot of different animals for Lent). Here's an overview of what we had on the table:
  • tabouleh - a rather green and roughly chopped tabouleh made with lots of slivered almonds
  • lutenitsa - a smoky Bulgarian spread of red pepper, garlic, eggplant, and tomato
  • Moroccan carrots - served warm, generously spiced, and my favorite of the sharing plates
  • roasted cabbage - a flavorful and tender whole quarter head of cabbage prepared sous vide then roasted served with muhammara, a creamy roasted red pepper dip, drizzled with tahini and hazelnuts
  • crispy halloumi - I can never resist halloumi when it's offered because it honestly remind me of my favorite childhood snack, Cheez Doodles. It was fried and served over a creamy bed of caramelized celery root and greens. 
  • Moroccan mint tea - this is my favorite thing to enjoy at shisha bars, and Shaya's was served generously in a large French press. However next time I'll ask them to hold the lemon. It came out way more citrusy (and sweetened) than mint! 
As expected, everything paired perfectly with the perfect pita. It was made for dipping, tartining, and sandwiching. The thick, warm, airy pita makes me reminiscent of Luzzo's cloud-like pizza crust because it is simply that amazing. Good thing we didn't order more dishes because we left that night with half the cabbage, letenitsa, and two thirds of the halloumi to go (yay, leftovers!). When I come back, and I most certainly will to get more of this life changing pita (am I starting to sound like Katniss yet?), I will try it with the curried fried cauliflower and black garlic butternut squash hummuses. Yup, I already got my next meal here planned. 


fried cheese FTW

4213 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA

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