New restaurant Zero adds a southern image to Cincinnati gourmet. But while the restaurant serves unique dishes inspired by the upbringing of chef Jeffrey Harris in New Orleans, the fare remains true for the chef himself, not for the traditional cuisine of his hometown.
Located in a place formerly occupied by the Beach (known for its bathroom and excellent chef offerings, nominated for the James Byrd Prize), in the Rhine, the dining room is upscale but affordable. Nolia’s menu includes dishes like delicious smoked chicken topped with white Alabama sauce, stewed greens, stewed greens, red fish broth (pronounced ka-bu-yon) and more. All side dishes are vegan, and while you shouldn’t expect them to play zydeco or serve hurricane cocktails in novelty cups, the restaurant’s drink menu will indeed be leave the good time roller.
I meet with Harris and his team on Thursday morning as they prepare for the evening dinner. The boulevard boils on the stove, giving the room a savory perfume, while co-chef Stephanie Gonzalez deep-fries rice paper – one used for spring rolls and the like – to make vegan chicharrons. The exact spice mix for this dish is kept secret, but it resembles a condiment with increased crab broth – similar to Old Bay, but heavier on garlic. One hint suggested by Gonzalez is black-eyed powder – not something you can probably just guess, but it tastes amazing.
Chicharrons are a side dish to stewed okra with tomatoes served with Jimmy Red cereals (southern variety of corn), a simple side dish that borders on perfection. If you’re used to instant cereal, it’s transcendent. A good start to your meal.
“This whole restaurant was created from my childhood,” says Harris CityBeat. “What I enjoy about my city, my hometown of New Orleans, and my travels to the south of the country – from Texas to Carolina and Georgia. We just tried to play out some parts of the south and also let people rethink what southern food is. ”
Harris also runs Jimmie Lou’s, named after his great-grandmother Jimmy Lou Green, to whom he attributes his deep love of food and cooking. Jimmie Lou’s menu comes from the same heart and mind, but the location of his restaurant at Oakley Kitchen Food Hall, which compares to an upscale food court, is more suitable for a delicious takeaway picnic than for Nolia. a dining environment that simply asks you to sit down at a table and enjoy your entire meal.
While Gonzalez works in the front kitchen, chef Nathan Penny runs the chicken coops in the closed backyard behind the restaurant. He explains that when you fry meat slowly – especially chicken, which has particularly oily skin that can become a little gelatinous when cooked at low temperatures – you want to maintain a heat of about 250 ° or enough heat to turn the fat from the skin into a crunchy delight. , not wet skin.
The menu offers an assortment of seasonal dishes, including a raw bar filled at the moment with oysters with Tasso Minion (vinegar sauce with dried pork) and shrimp with cocktail sauce. Small plates pass between the aforementioned transcendent okra stews and vegan chicherrons, fried oysters, sweet potato donuts, cornbread in a frying pan and a rustic board with pork turin and cured meats, cheese and seasonal pickles with pickles. If you try any of the side dishes, you should use stewed greens, and if you do not drink to the last drop of spicy stewed alcohol, there is no hope for you.
“I tell all my employees that there is no ceiling, no box, nothing but space,” says Harris. “So as you fill that space, that’s what will come of it. So if we want to be great, we have to think more, we have to think more than all the restaurants we’ve worked for. Like, everyone on my team, from the dishwasher to have a voice.
Harris ’openness in the kitchen shows a broader trend in restaurants around the world: a culture run by chefs is coming out. Gone are the days when tyrannical chefs were honored in gourmet dishes. As in many aspects of life, results are best when the leader listens to his team rather than throwing tantrums at the slightest challenge (a culture driven by futility is not erased and probably never will be, but it is thankfully
decreased over the years).
What is more important than the ego of one chef? A successful team that thrives in the workplace and is fully utilized. Although Harris deserves credit for the phenomenal team he has assembled, in Nolia he seems to be most proud – this is a very effective menu that he attributes to his staff. Democracy in action.
Nolia, 1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rane, noliakitchen.com.
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