30˚90˚ Dining FeaturesFusion food at La Thai
La Thai Cuisine Uptown co-owner Diana Chauvin says her restaurant serves Asian fusion cuisine with a focus on authentic Thai cooking and a local Louisiana influence. She says her family introduced Thai cuisine to the New Orleans area in the 1980s with a restaurant on the West bank called Mai Tai. “My mother [Panee Varnishung, co-owner and executive chef] grew her own Thai herbs and chilis in her back yard,” says Chauvin. She and her brother Merlin have trained under their mother and says the three of them are a team. “We all cook; we all serve,” she explains.
With a casual dress code and an atmosphere, Chauvin says La Thai Uptown is a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

“Customers usually leave wondering why they have never been here before. It’s the kind of food you crave or dream about and you have to have it right away.” This month, Chauvin suggests trying the new Asian tapas. The drink menu will also be in full effect, with fresh fruit martinis and mojitos of many flavors. Other delicacies will include whole fish with basil sauce, papaya salad with sticky rice and Mama’s stuffed chicken wings. “We just make people happy and want everyone to have an enjoyable dining experience. It’s simple. People want good food, good service and good energy and we have that to offer.”

Information, 4938 Prytania St., 899-8886, www.lathaiuptown.com.

30˚90˚ Dining FeaturesWarehouse District’s Creole Skillet
 The Creole Skillet seems to be finding a niche in the Warehouse District, serving indigenous Louisiana Creole Cajun food that’s “hot and delicious,” says owner and marketing and public relations director Anne Zoller Kiefer. “We are very new to the neighborhood but we’re surrounded by many great restaurants with superb chefs. The bar of excellence is set high because of them.”

The family business, which includes Executive Chef Trent Rapps, co-owner and Manager Betsy Brignac Rapps and co-owner Jennifer Kiefer Jamieson, is  trying hard to showcase “our special creative preparation of fresh meats and seafood accompanied by excellent service.”

Situated in what was once the True Brew Café, “it is warm and inviting, with original exposed cypress beams and bricks,” says Kiefer. Chef Trent, along with Chef de Cuisine Chris Broussard, collaborated to create their special magic in the kitchen. So far, customers have taken a liking to seafood favorites: Redfish Pontchartrain with lump crabmeat, Crabcakes, Crabmeat Cheesecake and Crawfish Maque Choux Fritters.

“It’s a must for conventioneers as well as locals,” she says. “This is a great place to eat before a Hornets’ game or for those who wish to enjoy a romantic dinner.”

Information, 200 Julia St., 304-6318.

30˚90˚ Dining FeaturesHankering for Hookah
The Hookah Café is a restaurant, bar and place to be all rolled into one, says proprieter Gil Birman. Located on the corner of Frenchmen and Decatur streets, it appeals to all types of people who want to eat, drink, smoke the finest shisha tobacco and listen to live music. With a sleek, modern interior and India-inspired accents, the Hookah Café offers a “relaxed, candle-lit atmosphere,” says Birman. Full-length windows allow guests to watch the bustling Frenchmen Street scene as well.

The food served is mainly contemporary Louisiana cuisine. Executive Chef David Duvall hails from Ascension Parish, La.; the Hookah Café’s menu reflects his strong Cajun heritage.

Birman also explains that that the high ceilings and top-notch ventilation system keep the air quite clear. “Hookah smoke dissipates very quickly and leaves a pleasant fragrance in the air, similar to incense,” he says. “Those concerned with smoke should have no worries at all.”

Birman believes the restaurant is successful because it’s a well-designed space that offers a unique concept. “The full Hookah Café experience is like no other,” he says.

Information, 500 Frenchmen St., 1407 Decatur St., 943-1101.