When I first started to come up with my wish list for New Orleans in 18 Eats, I wasn’t thinking about falafel and hummus, neither was I expecting Israeli cuisine made almost exclusively with locally grown Louisiana ingredients to top my list of all-time favourite restaurant meals. Then I found out about Shaya and wisely took a chance on eating there.
Only a few years old, Shaya already is well established as one of the city’s most popular and celebrated places to eat, with Executive Chef Alon Shaya boasting a James Beard Award for Excellence among an abundance of other accolades and awards. So, I’m hardly the first fella to shout out about this place or make haste to dine there. Indeed, I was there for an 11.30am lunch, and the place was already packed.
Only a few bites into my meal I could see what the fuss was all about. Food at Shaya reflects the chef’s Israeli roots and centres round his use of a wood-fired oven to cook seasonal ingredients sourced locally and responsibly.
The highlight of my lunch – not to mention an amazing homage to both Israeli and New Orleans cuisine – was the wood roasted okra oven-dried tomatoes, tahini and duqqa. Other delicious wonders included mixed greens with smoked dates and buttermilk, apples, spicy pecans; ikra (paddlefish caviar spread with shallots); Chanterelle hummus with wood roasted corn, sunflower seeds, and brown butter; and maybe the best falafel I’ve had outside the Middle East. A watermelon sorbet was as palate cleansing and refreshing a dessert as it sounds.
My visit to this popular uptown eatery came near the end of my 18 Eats mission; service was as pleasant and gracious as I’d come to expect dining in NOLA. The restaurant itself is a clean and airy blue-and-white interior, comfortable but elegant.
Shaya is located at 4213 Magazine Street, 70115. Find out more at shayarestaurant.com.
Save room for the next post! I’ll be back soon with more in my series about New Orleans in 18 Eats.