Da Nile in NOLA
Does New Orleans already have an abundance of Mediterranean restaurants? Or does it only have one? Sally Idrissou , the owner of the recently opened Nile Cafe (3100 Magazine St., 897-0920), points out that most local Mediterranean restaurants primarily serve either Middle Eastern or North African food. Nile Cafe offers both the more frequently seen Middle Eastern cuisine along with dishes from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Idrissou, a native Algerian, plans to introduce the North African cuisine through daily specials. Items that prove popular will be added to the regular menu. "We are more interested in success than making money," Idrissou says. And by "success," she means making sure that customers are happy. She wants them to try some new flavors, but she understands that everyone has different tastes and will happily make any substitutions requested. So far, Idrissou reports that Nile Cafe has already seen many repeat customers.
Vega Tapas Cafe (2051 Metairie Rd., 836-2007; www.vegatapascafe.com) began its eight-week tour of the Mediterranean on Sunday, July 3. Each week through the end of August, a six-course menu of small plates introduces diners to the flavors of a different Mediterranean country, including Tunisia, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain. This is the seventh year that Vega has offered their "Tour of the Mediterranean," and this year it has been extended to eight weeks. Vega's normal menu focuses more on the small plates of Spain but borrows flavors from other cuisines. "We have a big palette that we paint from," says owner Glen Hogh . Some of the dishes Vega discovers while preparing the culinary tour reappear as specials throughout the year. A complete calendar of the "Tour of the Mediterranean" can be found on Vega's Web site.
Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) has created a new club of New Orleans chefs called the Sugar Babies . During the month of July, each chef will create a dish that features one of the most historically important products of Louisiana: sugar. Inspired by the Southern Foodways Alliance's New Orleans "Field Trip" focused on sugar, Ti Adelaide Martin of Commander's Palace decided to organize the Sugar Babies project to foster camaraderie among New Orleans chefs. Look for caramelized goat cheese at La Cote Brasserie (700 Tchoupitoulas St., 613-2350; www.lacotebrasserie.com), duck confit with citrus gastrique at Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114; www.herbsaint.com) and grilled double-cut pork chops with Maple-Steen's Cane Vinegar Sauce at Emeril's Delmonico (1300 St. Charles Ave., 525-4937; www.emerils.com). Other participating restaurants include Brigtsen's (723 Dante St., 861-7610; www.brigtsens.com), Mr. B's Bistro (201 Royal St., 523-2078; www.mrbsbistro.com) and Dooky Chase (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0535).