I first met chef Nick Lama when we were placed in the same group of judges for the New Orleans Po Boy Festival last November. At the time, he was the chef de cuisine at Gautreau’s, one of my favorite restaurants in the city.
Chef Lama recently opened his own restaurant, Avo, at 5908 Magazine St., in the space that most recently housed Martinique Bistro. The redesign by architect Brooks Graham was substantial; the interior dining room feels more open, the result of both physical changes and the generally lighter color scheme. There are about 30 seats in the dining room, including the bar, and another 50 or so on the covered patio.
Avo is Italian for “grandfather,” and the name is significant. Large-format photographs of Lama’s family adorn the walls, including one of his great-grandparents at a tavern they owned on Bienville Street, the Bizot Beer Garden. While Lama clearly honors his family’s Sicilian roots, his cooking at Avo borrows from all of Italy’s regional cuisines.
Lama told me that Italian cooking is about using fresh, local ingredients at their best, preparing them simply and letting their flavors come through. Most products he uses are locally sourced.
The menu changes seasonally as a result, and pastas are made in-house.
Avo is currently open for dinner every day but Tuesday and Sunday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and by the time you read this, may also be open for brunch. Call 509-6550 to make a reservation.
As it happens, I also met chef Anne Lloyd at another judging opportunity, this time at a fundraiser for Trinity Episcopal School. Just as was the case with chef Lama, I was impressed by chef Lloyd’s knowledge of food and palate. In conversation, I learned that she owned a catering company, but it wasn’t until I drove by the space at 2139 Baronne St., and saw the Nolavore name on the building that I put two and two together and stopped in for a visit.
In addition to catering events for up to 200 guests, Nolavore also sells prepared foods at the New Orleans Food Co-Op in the Healing Center at 2372 St. Claude Ave., and through Good Eggs, an online vendor of local products. (GoodEggs.com/nola).
Chef Lloyd has plans to begin offering pick-up of Nolavore’s prepared foods (rolls, dips, composed salads and other dishes using local ingredients) from the Baronne Street location for customers ordering online, and Nolavore also offers a commercial-grade commissary kitchen, which is a service that appears to be much in demand in New Orleans these days.
If all of that weren’t enough, chef Lloyd is exploring the possibility of hosting a farmers’ market in property’s parking lot. To find out what’s happening now, visit Nolavore.net or call 914-3161.
Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen
Seung Hong and Michael Tran opened Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen at 748 Camp St. in May, taking over the building that for the last several years housed Phil’s Grill. The renovation opened the place up a bit, and if nothing else the eclectic Asian-centric menu fits better with the giant bamboo in the back patio than did burgers and fries.
I hesitate to use the term “fusion,” because it has negative connotations, but dishes at Rebellion recall the cuisines of China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and Mexico, for starters. Fortunately executive chef David Dickensauge and chef de cuisine Steven O’Neill pull off the balancing act.
Sure, there’s a dill crumble on the grilled yellowtail neck, and the octopus in the “Tako Taco” isn’t exactly traditional, but the ingredients fit together in my experience.
Take the Aburi Hokkaido, for example – a seared scallop topped with sea urchin roe, garnished with Meyer lemon and served over a nori (seaweed) purée. It is the first seaweed purée I’ve tasted, as far as I can remember, and while it wasn’t the most appealing color, it was tasty.
It is a large menu, and as I write, I haven’t gotten past the small plates section. I have enjoyed what I’ve had, though, and I’m intrigued enough by the remainder that I’ll be back.
Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen is open for lunch Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with plans for dinner service soon. Call 298-7317 to learn more.