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Shaya

Reviewed: August 2015

“Hi, I missed a call earlier to confirm my reservation…”

People skip this at most restaurants, but @AlonShaya’s namesake does not qualify as most. Seats have true value; reservations must happen weeks in advance. And seemingly everyone who steps inside #Shaya’s unassuming white exterior *raves* about it—@BonAppetitMag, @NYTimes, @BeardFoundation included.

Why becomes immediately evident. The soundtrack quality foreshadows everything: @KurtVile, @TVOnTheRadio, @Phantogram. Shaya boasts a welcoming and modern aesthetic exemplified best by its huge, beautiful wood-burning stove at the backwall. The pita it creates should also be considered art; seemingly everything on the menu can be consumed upon it.

Naturally, don’t fill up on the bread. Ask and waitstaff (rightfully) advise multiple plates from each section of this sharing-focused menu. Lamb tartare makes you question why you won’t eat spiced raw meat all the time; you’ll regret not ordering the grilled peaches and plum salad again for dessert. “For the table” trios should simply be mandatory. Bulgarian feta and watermelon served with a little oil tastes vastly more complex than something appearing so simple.

Perhaps best of all for such a well-regarded spot, pretension doesn’t exist. We, a pair of doing OK young adults out for an occasion, share the same excitement as the well-traveled @WashingtonPost critic we end up next to (he happily asks us about the greatness of the house “Sazerac”—using Cynar, not abinsthe). And Alon Shaya himself individually greets each table, capturing a 60-second glimpse of every diner’s world. We bumblingly fawn, but the WaPo critic manages a more intelligent topic—why host this Israeli hotbed in #NOLA?

Turns out Mr. Shaya, since age 13, thought of this town as *the* food destination. He grew up watching Paul Prudhomme on PBS. So while the cuisine doesn’t come to mind for visitors like gumbo or po’ boys, it made sense to him. “I never thought I’d get to cook food in New Orleans,” he admits. “But that’s the way the pita crumbles.”

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Seither’s

Reviewed: May 2015

The poor single napkin arriving with appetizers doesn’t stand a chance. Two pounds of mudbug emerged before the first sip of ice tea goes down, and juice will be everywhere. No one complains though. People here don’t qualify as entry-level seafood seekers. //

Out in #Harahan within a quick walk of the river, #SeithersSeafood stands as the #NOLA-edition of a longstanding culinary tradition. In the northeast, big wings and cheap bar deals encourage backwoods travel. Out in California, tiny taquerias do the same. Here, #seafood spots off the Eater 38-radar cause casual dining pilgrimages. //

Seither’s clientele ranges from old to young, food-seeking hipster to lifelong NRA member, local to “tourist” (those coming ~20m or so from NOLA-proper). Everyone can agree on proper seafood. And this rural picnic table, Michelob-serving joint offers it fresh, perfectly boiled and seasoned, and larger than what you’ll find in any similar advertised upscale joint. //

The boiled crawfish match any you can find outside of some Cajun or Creole family recipe. Seither’s #oyster bar doesn’t mess around with chargrilled, but you can get the large Gulf varietal served with everything from jalapeños to a citrus trio. Crabs, shrimp, redfish and practically everything “local” encompasses sits on the menu. Nearly all of it comes boiled, fried, in a po-boy, with a pasta, or practically any way you could imagine. //

When two pounds, one dozen, and a jumbo dressed cost less than a round of starters at most places, you know immediately this trip will soon be done without Google Maps. Arrive hungry, leave happy (*not stuffed*), tip the waitstaff. You’ll fit in just fine. //

#Foodstagram #reviews

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Kin

Reviewed: May 2015

I never even heard of Gert Town, but I loved San Francisco. And @KinForDinDin—a new Mid-City(ish) casual spot focused on housemade and local—apparently fits beautifully in both. //

Kin hides from #NOLA tourists off a local highway far from the highly-trafficked Quarter, Bywater or even LGD. And its homey exterior (billboard not withstanding) accurately reflects the inside. Kin limits space, probably seating no more than 20-odd diners at a time. So seating falls into two categories—counter or communal—and each encourages conversation with both server (who doubles as kitchen staff) and neighbors that can’t help but peek at what just arrived.//

Charming aesthetic aside, the food makes Kin worth the extra hassle of travel, reservations and small group dining.  An affordably priced large plate ($20~) fills not stuffs, and offerings like the oysters and gnocchi suddenly have you questioning your ranking of favorite in-town dishes. That features a crawfish beurre blanc, but Kin also makes a preserved persian lime creme fraiche (served on lamb) and miso #hollandaise (asparagus + poached #eggs) to convert even the most non-aware eaters into sauce fanatics. Toss in some charming quirks like a “tiramiso” (salty sweet to perfection), and anticipation instantly builds to see next month’s menu. //

Less than two months old, Kin (deservedly) may not remain this accessible forever. But for now, an evening of BYOB fun combined with a laid-back setting and properly sized and salivating tastes needs to be experienced firsthand. If things ultimately ever do get busy to the point of impossible, Kin at least aims to expand. Not to larger locales or menus, but… a ramen lunch looms. Mid-day table for one, please?

#foodstagram

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