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A Taste of Tel Aviv in New Orleans

On Saturday night, I had dinner at Shaya, the new restaurant from New Orleans Chef Alon Shaya. I was a big fan of Alon's from his other restaurants (Domenica, and sister restaurant, Pizza Domenica), so I was eager to try it.

Early reviews were raving about the food, so I was skeptical if it could live up to the hype. Well, boy, did it ever.

I had never eated Israeli food before, so my friends and I opted to order pretty much...everything on the menu. The waitress seemed skeptical that that three women were going to be able to eat the amount of food that was ordered. But, I didn't go to Women's College to be told I couldn't finish the obscene amount of food I ordered at a restaurant. So, once the challenge was laid out before us, we had no choice but to lick our plates clean.

Shaya is the sort of restaurant that begs for table sharing. We started off some israeli salad, pickled vegetables, and baba ganoush. The israeli salad and pickled vegetables were real stand outs. Shaya has vegetables and herbs growing in an outdoor patio area behind the restaurant, and those two items were so fresh they tasted as though they were right off the vine.

One of the things that came up again and again in talking with people about their experiences at Shaya was how incredible the Pita was. I associate pita with hard, store bought bread that I eat when I am on a diet. Well, the pita at Shaya has completely changed my mind about everything. It was mind blowingly good. They have a wood burning oven specifically for it, and the waitress could not bring out more bread to us fast enough.

Another stand out was the falafel. Sometimes falafel has a hard, rock like consistency if done incorrectly. Not at Shaya -- this falafel was soft, fluffy and perfectly fried. I woke up the next morning thinking about it, no joke.

We ordered some "large plates", but it might say something of them that I don't remember them quite as much as I remember the salads, vegetables, pita and falafel. If you were dining at Shaya on a budget, I might say you could forego entrees completely, share a couple of "small plates" and feast on the "for the table" dishes.

Shaya is located on Magazine sttreet, close to Napoleon Avenue. It would be a bit of a walk from the guest house, but not impossible on a pretty day with cooler weather. However, it is very close to Tipitinas, so it makes the perfect restaurant to dine at before going to see a show.

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