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Best Restaurants: Who would have thunk it? The hottest table in New Orleans isn't at one of the storied Creole palaces, traditional havens of buttery trout amandine and oysters served every which way. Instead, the toughest reservation to snag – hint hint make that call early - is at Shaya, a modern Israeli eatery where hummas reigns supreme and avocado toast keeps company with smoky whitefish and zippy bits of pink peppercorns. Shaya, uptown on Magazine in what used to Dominique's, is a personal Valentine to the Israeli table from Alon Shaya, whose accolades include Best Chef South by the James Beard Foundation in 2015. The chef, a longtime chef/partner to local celebrity chef John Besh, brought a similarly fresh perspective to Italian cuisine to restaurants Domenica and Pizza Domenica. At Shaya, he casts a flavorful gaze to his native Israel, creating umami combinations with the likes of pureed chickpeas, tahini, Aleppo pepper and fragrant olive oil. The uptown restaurant is austere in its design, a bit of a disconnect from the earthiness of the dishes, but stylish nonetheless. On the beverage side, there's a fine list of interesting cocktails and offbeat wines by the glass. A few noteworthy nibbles include the fried cauliflower, crispy and dusted with curry, the ground lamb ragu peppered with pine nuts and any of the mezze tapas-style dishes from the chef's homeland. Try not to fill up on the pillowy rounds of fresh-baked pita that arrive hot out of the oven, but beware, it will be almost impossible, the bread is that good. If you want to try something different, sample the kibbeh, a mix of spiced beef and lamb tartare served with a crusty flatbread for dipping. And for dessert, something simply exotic, the malabi, an ethereal vanilla custard that tastes like a walk through a tropical garden.

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Local Expert Beth D'Addono Says:

Best Restaurants: "This isn't your bubba's matzo ball soup - one slurp and you'll be in comfortland."

Recommended as Best Restaurants Because: Shaya is Alon Shaya's homage to the varied food of his homeland, a truly original Nola dining experience.


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