Nola – Weaken the hurricane, not the crawfish

It’s amazing how Wikipedia updates its stuff so efficiently, there is no way we could have read our encyclopedia about a hurricane the same day it is hitting the coast of Louisiana if we were trying to 10 years ago (or if we’re in New Orleans right now, as there’s no power anyway). On my flight back to Houston, I remember how happy I felt to see the plane streak through thick fluffs of cloud, as I was too filled with sunshine in California any small shade of tree was a blessing. For a whole week after that Houston was soaked. It rained and rained and rained. And now Louisiana too is getting a bath. How about California? As dry as a frying pan.

As we waved goodbye to our friendly hostess at Cafe Renaissance, we still had some room for dessert (or so we thought, little did we know the Persian food had a surprisingly delayed effect), so we set out for Nola a stone’s throw away, hoping to get some beignet. This was not my first attempt to try the French pastry that I’ve heard about during commercials on the Little Saigon Radio, and it won’t be the last. Nola (short for New Orleans, Louisiana) was out of beignet on a Saturday afternoon at 6pm. The waiter kindly told us so and assured us if we came back the next day there would be some, so albeit the guilt we felt and the balcony seat we got, we thanked him for the water, stood up and left. Perhaps it was our fault for not coming back the next day, but we returned on Monday, asked for beignet, our sweet waitress disappeared into the kitchen, then came back gently apologized that their frying pan had broken, hence no beignet. She also did not forget to assure us that if we came back later in the week there would be some. At this point I started to wonder why they hadn’t just taken the beignet off the menu and avoided all the troublesome customers like me. But anyway, we were hungry so we stayed and ordered jambalaya and etouffee, which were as Cajun as you can get.

For dishes this red, nothing but a white plate can enhance the color so well. The jambalaya above was as spicy as it looks, although not intolerably tear inducing spicy. It would have been nice if the sausage cuts were a little more generous, though. (I know, you can’t see any sausage in the picture.)

I thought the etouffee was good. Mainly because of the rice. Sadly it’s not Cajun rice, but basmati rice mixed with green onions. The little curled up chaps are the crawfish, not too intimidated by two big shrimps also curled up and lots of marshmallowy chunks of scallops. No offense to the scallops, but I think their texture didn’t quite belong there. Nonetheless, I finished everything on my plate except the green onions and their white bulbs. See the dinner menu for more of what’s in there.

We didn’t have to wait very long for our food, but we had to wait quite a while for our bill. Such is the loving attention of the restaurant: they didn’t want you to leave. It was early in the evening, the restaurant only had a few tables occupied, both up and downstairs. Some waiters casually leaned against the wall chatting away the hour, a few waitresses walking around in miniskirts, putting colorful Mardi Gras beads on the tables. It was such a peaceful scene. Despite our obvious display of finished plates on the table, no one came our way with a black leather envelope. At first we were unsure whether we needed to go to the cashier to pay, but we asked and a waiter lackadaisically delivered the bill to our table. Meanwhile our waitress was nowhere to be found. We put in the card, and waited some more. Finally our waitress came to take the card and let us sign, and we were released. Restaurant California. Perhaps the Eagles came here before?

Did we come back to try again for the beignet? We’re not that desperate over a dried well. Well, if you’re drinker, it’s definitely not dried. The food is decent, but I’ll patiently wait until I can go to New Orleans to try New Orleans food. Until then, we’ve bid farewell to fake Palo Alto Nola (Panola? Nopa? Anyway…).

Address: Nola’s Restaurant and Bar
535 Ramona Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 328-2722

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