Last year, the highly regarded New York chef Akhtar Nawab announced he would bring a Mexican restaurant to New Orleans. Now the restaurant, set to open this spring, has a name: Otra Vez, which means “again” or “another time.”
“It’s a playful way of saying it’s our second restaurant, but it’s also a different restaurant,” Nawab said.
Nawab, a protege of chef Tom Colicchio and a mentor to David Chang, runs Alta Calidad in Brooklyn. Born in Kentucky and of Indian heritage, Nawab started making Mexican food late in his career. He quickly saw connections, though, between the cuisines of Mexico and India.
At Otra Vez, he will offer some of the signature dishes of Alta Calidad, like crispy shrimp tacos with chipotle celery root remoulade and a spicy Margarita made with juiced poblano peppers. He will also incorporate the Indian bread roti into the menu and use local peppers and seafood.
“We have a slightly different take on Mexican food,” he said. “We take our own departures from that cooking.”
Nawab compared the way Otra Vez will approach Mexican cuisine to Saffron’s take on Indian or Maypop’s spin on Southeast Asian flavors.
“Some things may be similar to what we do in New York, but it will have its own soul as well,” he said of Otra Vez. “Our goal is to ask if we can be part of the community.”
Otra Vez: 1001 Julia St., New Orleans (opens in the spring)
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