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Nyla: yes, Nyla (very very long)

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Nyla: yes, Nyla (very very long)

CTer | Jun 25, 2002 04:29 PM

It is with some trepidation that I announce to the world that last night, at my instigation, my S.O. and I ate dinner at Nyla.

It was, as I’m sure you can all imagine, a pretty strange experience. But not necessarily for the reasons you imagine.

First, a bit about us: mid-50s; not at all buff; S.O. is not the least bit up on popular culture, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Ms. Britney “sing.”

We arrived sometime between 7:30 and 8:00pm, with no reservation. The (under-age-looking) hostesses at the desk greeted us nicely enough. Seemed a bit lost as to what to do with us, but decided on a table upstairs, to which we were led. Alas, the table was within a direct blast of the AC system, so I asked if for another. Some consternation on the part of the hostess, but she led us to the opposite end of the balcony. This table was under a speaker, but at least not within reach of the arctic blasts. And it had a clear view of the main floor dining area and the “Georgia O’Keeffe” (oh, really??) projections. The entire place was occupied no more than half. Quite a few tables appeared to be populated by pre-pubescent girls with parents and/or grandparents.

Waited about 5 to 10 minutes until a server showed up. Got menus and drinks/wine list. Looked over the lists. The food actually seemed fairly serious, with a heavy emphasis on southern/New Orleans ingredients and techniques, fused with “trendy” stuff – such as a selection of “sushi rolls” including the “po’ boy” with fried oysters. I had the impression that it was mired in the late 1980s or early ‘90s. Where has the chef been for the last 10 years? Prices: around $8 to $12 for apps; most entrees in the mid-to-high teens, with one or 2 over $20. All cocktails $10; wines in a moderate range. What I could not understand was the “Bottle Service” – in which, say, Chivas was listed at $275 or so. This I do not get.

Anyway, after dropping the menus and asking what water we’d like, the server took another break. He finally came back, answered our questions about menu items with reasonable assurance, and took our order. Oh, yes, somewhere in there he took our drinks order, and those arrived with sufficient expedience. I had a Raspberry Mojito, Paul had a Caipirinha. Both tasted as if the bar had no access to sugar – but actually that was fine, we prefer tart to sweet. Quite enjoyable, in fact; my mojito was not the usual forest of mint, and had about 4-5 fresh raspberries in the glass.

After ordering (including a 1998 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, $49), we sipped our drinks, looked down on the dining room, and tried to catch the ambience of the place. I haven’t seen so much burnt orange since the mid-1970s. I suppose the swaths of sheer fabric around the columns and across the ceiling are supposed to “soften” the look of the room. Didn’t. The music was mostly unidentifiable by us – generic rock? slushy faux-jazz? – and loud.

What, you must be wondering, was the food like? We wondered that a lot, too. Especially during the 45 minutes we nibbled on the just-okay bread and waited for our apps (Crabmeat Gumbo with Andouille; Lobster Salad with Fried Green Tomato and Tomato Jam). Oh, the waiter looked shocked each time he appeared and saw that we had nothing. And several times promised to “go downstairs himself” if a runner didn’t show up soon. At about the half-hour mark, I said, “Please tell me the truth, what is taking so long?” He explained that the kitchen got slammed around that time – just after 8:00pm, and had to fill all the orders for room service as well, and there were so many tables, and … which might have been understandable if the place had been more than half-full. But, then how long have they been open? Maybe the expo will learn better pacing.

After several more shocked looks, just as I asked yet again where our food might be, he spied the runner coming up the stairs. By now it was close to 9PM. I suggested that he fire our entrees right then, since we really did not plan on staying all night. The gumbo was quite good – lots of very sweet lump crabmeat, hot but not overpowering spice, a very rich-tasting and –feeling broth, and jasmine rice; it seemed a bit oversalted at first, but either I got used to it, or the spice took over. The lobster salad was not as successful: fresh but tasteless lobster; heavy breading on the slice of green tomato (not greasy, though); the squiggles of yellow-tomato oil and green-tomato jam on the plate were the best part.

Similar spottiness with the entrees: the Duck and Wild Mushroom Etoufee had delicious mushrooms and other vegetables, but the duck, however plentiful, had very little flavor. The Roasted Pork Chop itself was excellent: ever so slightly smoky in flavor, lean but juicy, cooked still a bit pink. The sautéed southern greens with it (a mix) were totally unseasoned, but properly cooked and had enough butter on them to make up the flavor. I was sure the menu listed “potato puree” but it turned out to be a potato and parsnip puree. Very sweet, and very cloying after a few mouthfuls. The molasses something-or-other sauce was, fortunately, barely noticeable. Once the wine had enough air, it was all right, neither more nor less.

The dessert we ordered – lemon-ginger pound cake, with whipped crème fraiche and basil honey looked like another throwback to the 1980s: a tower of 5 triangles of cake, held together by globs of … (part of the story), with slices of star fruit artfully dangling off, on a plate squiggled with the green honey and sprinkled with tiny bits of chopped fruit. The cake had an excellent pound cake texture (I like mine a bit heavy), but no discernable lemon or ginger flavor. The globs were clearly NOT whipped crème fraiche, but rather seemed to be the cream cheese frosting promised on the Red Devil cake. The honey was the best thing on the plate, and I am not a fan of honey – but this tasted fully of basil. The decaf coffee was tasty but weak.

When I mentioned to the server that it was NOT whipped crème Fraiche, he whisked away the (unfinished) plate with a promise to deal with it. I saw him talking to a management type. They ended up taking it off our bill. Eventually.

Overall assessment: Whom do they expect to eat here??? The food is way too sophisticated for BS’s prime fans (the little girls, and wet-dreaming boys). Trend-followers can only take a place so far, until the next trendy place opens. Serious eaters will likely be put off by the noise and the pretension of dishes that just miss. And of course, unless the kitchen gets its act together, no one will be happy. At least the prices are not outrageous (except for those bottles…??).

PS. I’m posting this same story on several boards, so if you read it on one, don’t bother to read it on others.

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