The New Orleans food scene is stronger than ever with over 1300 places to eat, up from 800 pre-Katrina. I have long enjoyed the food of my hometown. Since I returned to live here full time at the end of October, I have been conducting further explorations into what New Orleans offers.
In my own neighborhood, there are easily twenty good restaurants worth repeating within walking distance. One of these is Chiba, offering high quality Japanese food on Oak Street. Chiba is run by my neighbor Keith Dusko. It has provided the two best meals I have had since I moved here on Halloween. And their innovation crosses over to wonderful cocktails like a blackberry mojita and a very large sake selection.
You know you are in New Orleans with items like Crawfish Tempura and Bananas Foster Egg Rolls. And they manage to pull it off with great skill doing homage to both food traditions. Their sushi and sashimi are wonderful and likely the highest quality in the city. However, their cooked dishes also show great innovation and execution, with examples like the two above and pan-roasted mussels with ginger, garlic and green onions and short rib tempura served on fresh lettuce with sesame soy jus. I think it ranks with any place across the city for culinary innovation and execution.
Here is our first meal: crawfish tempura, pork belly steamed bun, fried oyster steam bun, pan-roasted mussels with ginger, garlic and green onions, soy mirin-glazed NY steak with marbled potatoes, Tasso ham, Thai basil and chili aioli, and we finished with blueberry beignets and ice cream.
The tempura was light with plenty of crawfish and we ate it before I got the camera out, The mussels were flavorful, the steamed buns were very light with intense flavors inside, the steak was thin sliced and combined well with the potatoes and Tasso, and the desert blew us away.
Here is our second meal; tempura calamari salad with Dikon radish and green vinaigrette, sashimi special served in a crispy fish that was also very eatable, short rib tempura (partially eaten as we got carried away before I took the picture), crispy skin salmon with spinach and a peanut sauce, and closing with bananas foster egg roll with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
Each dish was innovative, fresh and well prepared. There were lots of calamari, the sashimi was subtle and the presentation in a whole crispy fish was a pleasant surprise, the short rib reminded me of a high end version of chicken fried steak and I say this with great homage to a dish I grew up on, the salmon had a nice combination of crispy outside and juicy inside. Once again the desert blew us away. We will be back many times as there are many other innovative choices left on the menu to sample.
Chiba is located at 8312 Oak Street, New Orleans, LA 70118 (504) 826-9119. They do take out but we enjoy sitting at the bar watching all the new drinks being prepared. If you are comig to the city, add it to you list of places to eat.