Rice Dishes–Dozen Best
New Orleans is a rice-eating town, to an extent far beyond the American average. Here are twelve restaurants with rice specialties so good they can serve as an entree. Left out of this list (because they each deserve their own lists): beans and rice and Asian fried rice.
1. Pelican Club. French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504. Here is the city’s best jambalaya. Strange to see it in a decidedly upscale (five-star!) restaurant. But it’s always perfect, with big shrimp, great sausage, and the ideal quality and quantity of rice. They bring it to the table in a big copper pot.
2. Galvez. French Quarter: 912 N Peters. 504-585-1400. The city’s best (and certainly most atmospheric) Spanish restaurant knocks out a fine pan of paella with seafood , chicken, chorizo, vegetables, or any combination.
3. Ristorante Del Porto. Covington: 501 E Boston St. 985-875-1006. The best Italian restaurant in the area gets a lot of its distinction from the perfection of its risottos. Never too starchy, gooey, or hard, ideal proportions of whatever the additive of the day is.
4. RioMar. Warehouse District: 800 S Peters. 504-525-3474. Arroz con anything. The most adventuresome is the arroz negro Costa Brava (octopus, squid, shrimp and squid ink). But Chef Adolfo will toss rice with any of a wide range of possible ingredients.
5. Ninja. Uptown: 8433 Oak. 504-866-1119. Chirashi sushi begins with a bed of sushi rice, scattered with bonito flakes and tobiko. Sashimi-cut fish and shellfish on top.
6. Crescent Pie & Sausage Company. Mid-City: 4408 Banks St. 504-482-6264. Bad Bart’s black jambalaya could also be called a dirty rice. It includes pork, chicken, sausage, and (oddly) black eye peas. Low of grease, clean and appetizing.
7. Coffee Pot. French Quarter: 714 St Peter. 504-524-3500. This is the last stand for calas, the classic Creole rice cakes, served as a central breakfast item with syrup and bacon or sausage.
8. Taj Mahal. Old Metairie: 923-C Metairie Rd. 504-836-6859. Biryani is made of basmati rice blended with savory herbs and vegetables, chicken, lamb, or whatever. My own favorite is the vegetarian version, but all are good and grandly presented.
9. Olivier’s Creole Restaurant. French Quarter: 204 Decatur. 504-525-7734. Surprisingly few restaurants here serve jambalaya, believing the dish to be a cliche. Nonsense. Here at Olivier’s jambalaya is all over the menu, for the best of reasons.
10. Cafe Granada. Carrollton: 1506 S Carrollton Ave. 504-865-1612. A fine all-around Spanish restaurant in minimal surroundings. Cafe Granada makes excellent paella in several styles.
11. Cochon. Warehouse District: 930 Tchoupitoulas. 504-588-2123. You can’t talk about rice specialties without mentioning boudin, the Cajun sausage made by stuffing a casing with rice, pork, liver, and lots of seasonings. They make in house here, and as an appetizer it’s hard to beat.
12. Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Chef Andrea will make any kind of risotto at the drop of a hat. I’m especially fond of the one he makes in almost a paella style with seafood. Problem: the consistency is less than perfect as regard texture.