Enjoy a bit of New Orleans in the UAE at Nola Eatery & Social House

Live jazz, vintage decor and a New Orleans-inspired menu – Nola Eatery & Social House offers all this and more.

Nola Eatery & Social House in Dubai. Courtesy of Nola Eatery & Social House
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A slice of New Orleans is coming to the desert.

The Louisiana city is probably best known for jazz music, but the distinct cuisine you’ll find at Nola Eatery & Social House has come to define the city: gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp po’boys, beignets, muffulettas, boudin sausages, bananas fosters, crawfish étouffée, turtle soup, chargrilled oysters and so much more. It’s tough to find those famous dishes outside of Louisiana, much less in the Middle East.

That’s exactly what inspired owner and managing director Alex Economides to open a New Orleans-inspired restaurant in Dubai.

“New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and arguably the funkiest city in the United States,” says Economides. “We wanted to create a unique concept that stands out among typical Dubai venues so we came up with a concept recreating the vibe of decadent 1920s New Orleans. Nola is a New Orleans-inspired venue offering southern American food with a healthier, more modern take.”

The restaurant is filled with vintage decor and seats 300 guests in a lively, casual atmosphere. On the weekends, a live saxophonist fills the restaurant with New Orleans jazz music.

But, as with any restaurant, the food takes centre stage. And Nola’s head chef, Nikolas Tsimidakis, was determined to get the menu right. “I did a lot of research and studied many chefs from New Orleans,” he says. “I gained a lot of inspiration from chefs John Folse, Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. We had many food tastings to get the right taste in each and every dish on the menu.”

Economides and Tsimidakis spent weeks in New Orleans sampling the cuisine.

“Chef Nikolas and I travelled to New Orleans to immerse ourselves and our five senses into the gastronomic scene,” says Economides.

“We walked away with a mountain of unforgettable experience and newly forged relationships with some of the most prominent chefs in the New Orleans culinary scene.” Tsimidakis, who was previously the executive chef at Majestic Hotel Tower in Dubai, says: “I spent weeks sampling the most authentic Creole and Cajun cuisine New Orleans has to offer. We met with some of the biggest chefs to gain inspiration, bought their books and did a lot of research to learn the authentic style. Then I mixed it with my own interpretation.”

To appeal to a wider range of palates, the menu – which took six months to develop – includes interpretations of famous New Orleans dishes as well as those from across the southern US. You’ll find Louisiana crab cakes; seafood jambalaya; muffuletta sandwiches; Creole meatballs; Bayou shrimp beignets; and a turkey burger covered in the restaurant’s signature relish.

You’ll also find empanadas stuffed with spicy black eyed peas and mozzarella; a hot spinach cheese dip served with a French baguette and prawn tagliolini.

If you’re serving up southern American food, you better have fried chicken and waffles on the menu. Nola’s version is a healthier oven-baked (not fried) Cajun cornflake-crusted chicken served with a courgette and Parmesan waffle.

“New Orleans cuisine consists of the most exciting flavours you can find in the US,” says Economides. It was spawned from French, Spanish and Italian immigrants with Caribbean influences. It’s hot, vibrant and satisfying.”

He’s confident the restaurant – and the chef – will win over guests looking for a unique experience. “Chef Nikolas possesses an incredible mixture of experience, charisma, and foresight,” he says. “Our diners are going to love him and what he creates for them.”

Nola Eatery & Social House is in Jumeirah Lake Towers, Cluster P, connected to Armada Blue Bay Hotel. It is open daily for lunch and dinner from 12pm to 1.30am. The bar is open until 3am. Call 04 399 8155

sjohnson@thenational.ae