More Than a Side Dish
Soups and salads that are meals on their own.
Enchanting Mermaids soup and a housemade cardamom cola at Lucky Rooster
Photographed By Sara Essex Bradley
They are often the overshadowed menu offerings, second to the gnocchis, charcuteries and crudos of the world.
They are the dishes associated with mother-mandated ultimatums: eat your spinach or no TV.
Or with sickness, with which comes the sad can of chicken noodle from the dusty cupboard or the impending Saltine-sog-fest known as tomato soup bubbling in the microwave.
Together they’re associated with picky ladies who lunch, or with dressing on the side, or with bread bowls.
But soups and salads don’t have to be so blasé, so dismal, so loathed. In fact, mothers, sickness and china teacups don’t have to be involved at all.
Here are two restaurants that are actually elevating their dining options thanks to the help of impeccable soup and salad offerings.
At the recently opened Lucky Rooster in the CBD, a restaurant that prides itself on kitschy but very well executed “best of” Asian dishes from chef Neil Swidler, the from-scratch soups are a must-try. Swidler takes the time to make ramen and udon noodles in-house and obviously has a good time showcasing his hard work.
The udon noodles, for instance, are served in the namesake soup, The Lucky Rooster, with tender, spicy chicken, chicken dumplings and teriyaki wings. The result is good luck for all eternity, but only if you top it off with a soft egg , which lends itself well to the broth.
Seafood lovers will enjoy the Enchanting Mermaids , a large bowl of mellow, sweet Thai coconut broth that harbors a sea of deliciousness: blue crab c laws, sweet corn, baby bok choy and sticky rice conglomerate into a seafood soup like no other. In other words, it ain’t ya mama’s chowder, dawlin’. The bowl of soup also adorns a skewer of just-crisp-enough ginger shrimp , making the dish a stunner at first sight, but it quickly becomes apparent that this soup is too good to be shared.
Vegetarians should also take note, as the Swidler’s Dragon Warrior soup features a smoky housemade tofu with a hot bean-shiitake mushroom stir-fry and tender Korean rice dumplings. He also makes some killer sauces, including a secret-recipe Sriracha, which is a necessary addition for those in need of a good sinus clearing. All soups should be accompanied by housemade Sparkle Pops – not icicles, but sodas including a Cardamom variation, perfect on its own or served “Tiger Style” with a splash of rum.
Perhaps no other restaurant in the city of New Orleans does quite a spectacular market salad as the one found at Ancora Pizzeria & Salumeria. While the Freret Street restaurant, owned by chefs Adolfo Garcia and Jeff Talbot, is known for their wood-fired Neopolitan-style pizzas, the hidden gem here is the market salad. Depending on the time of year, diners will find a range of salads, like the decadent Tempura-fried cauliflower served alongside radishes, beets, croutons, prosciutto and with Sottocenere al Tartufo cheese, all of it drizzled in quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or, a simple and irreproachable plate of heirloom tomatoes may arrive to your table, their plump, juicy slices pillowed with fresh Burrata. In hot months, one may venture upon a cured-in-house tuna salad with fresh white beans and peas – a deft preamble to s ummer. This preserved tuna may sneak in to the hottest of months, served with pickled heirloom green beans, housemade salsa verde, radishes, banana peppers and crutons.
And in the cooler months, the Sottocenere makes its return (it’s an Italian cow’s milk cheese with truffles, the rind of which is also rubbed with cinnamon, nutmeg and various herbs, giving the cheese a rather everyday-is-a-holiday feel). A defining element of the fall and winter salads, the Sottocenere lends its earthy, warm flavor to vegetables of both the robust and dainty nature. While pizza does seem like the obvious addictive substance here, you may just find yourself returning for the veggies.
Lola’s cold soups, including the gar licky Ajoblanco almond soup and t he classic take on Gazpacho , are a perfect respite from the August heat.
Lucky Rooster | 515 Baronne St. | 529-5825 | LuckyRoosterNola.com
Ancora Pizzeria & Salumeria | 4508 Freret St. | 324-1636 | AncoraPizza.com
Lola’s | 3312 Esplanade Ave. | 488-6946 | LolasNewOrleans.co