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.
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.)
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.