Nola appetizer

Includes Battistella’s, Raleigh, NC

Exactly 14 days ‘til I’m on my way to New Orleans and all its phenomenal foodie goodness!

To whet my appetite, I recently visited Battistella’s in downtown Raleigh.

I’d enjoyed the cooking of Katrina-displaced chef Brian Battistella in one of his former restaurants. Battistella’s New Orleans Kitchen was, unfortunately, housed in a rundown hotel in a bizarre location. The fare, however, was good enough to build a loyal following. (Speaking for myself only, I loved the food the single time I visited, but the lousy ambience prevented my return.)

But now Chef Brian is ensconced in a great space in the City Market, his menu has expanded to match the hip relocation and the restaurant is packed and lively.

The facility is a bit chopped up and not huge in the first place, so there are a couple of issues. I loved the look and feel of the bar area, where you can also eat. It’s a narrow, dim, atmospheric space — so apropos for fall and winter. However, the high stools were were a tad uncomfortable so we opted for the dining room. Later we wish we’d stayed in the bar.

Don’t get me wrong — the main room is very cool. Exposed brick, high ceilings, great lighting, huge windows. All in all great visual appeal. But a definite fishbowl, acoustically speaking. Conversation was extremely difficult. However, we were glad to hear from a manager as we left that they’re consulting with an expert to remedy the problem.

Those were the only two negatives. The rest of our experience was nothing short of fantastic — including the most important part: the food!

For a starter to share, we went with our server’s most excellent recommendation: Drew’s Warm Pimento Cheese.

I wasn’t that excited about it initially. Here in the South pimento cheese is plentiful. But one taste confirmed we were right to trust our server.

The dip was warm and goopy and rich (the addition of cream cheese probably had something to do with that) and a little spicy. Spooning the lusciousness onto the crispy little toasts was nearly as pleasurable as eating it.

My main was a kind of three-in-one combo. Blackened catfish (typical New Orleans fare, on the spicy side) + crawfish etouffee sauce (another flavor-rich standard) + crispy fried okra. (And rice, of course.)

I enjoyed every single beautifully presented, flavorful, multi-textured bite. So much so that there was no room for dessert, which was a cryin’ shame.

But that’s okay. It’s a good reason to return. As is the brunch menu. And the po’ boys. And a drinks night in the bar.

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About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
This entry was posted in Raleigh, NC, Restaurants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Nola appetizer

  1. Joanne says:

    Thanks for that….I’m heading to The Big Easy on Sunday – any recommendations for me – ! Too bad our trips don’t coincide!

    • Lucky you! I wish our trips were overlapping, too. I had two top restaurants I really wanted to try on this trip but we’re only making it to one — Cochon. The other is Dante’s Kitchen. We’re also eating at Luke, Mr. B’s and Gallatoires.

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