Well, it’s official, summer is finally here. And I must say that after what seemed like a long winter, I’ve actually been pretty welcoming of the sun and warm balmy air. Summer means spending long afternoons by the pool, eating all the ice cream and popsicles you want, and enjoying barbecue at least three times a week. I also get to spend a lot more time with my boyfriend since he’s out of law school for a few months, and without having any daytime classes, we can finally go out for weekday lunch dates.
So, to kick-start the month of June I decided to make reservations at a place I had been eying for months. Recommended to us by a friend, MiLa, located on Common Street in the CBD, is owned by married couple and Co-Chefs Allison and Slade Rushing. Named after the first and last letters of each of their home states (Mississippi and Louisiana), MiLa prides itself on using the freshest of local ingredients, creating an ever-changing and highly seasonal menu. I was very excited to learn that they had a 3-course $20 prix fix lunch menu, and quickly made plans to go with my boyfriend and my dad – the two people I know who love food as much as I do.
Our reservation was for 11:30 am and we were the second table to be seated. Our waiter placed us at a table right by the window, with a view of Baronne Street, which made me happy since I could use natural light to take my pictures. Restaurant decoration is very retro and fun, while not completely distracting you from the true art – the food. For their first course, the men both ordered the White Asparagus Soup with Lump Crab and I ordered the Organic Greens Salad. Both dishes were fabulous, but I particularly liked my salad because it featured shaved watermelon radish, which I had never had before, and I immediately fell in love with its bright pink and green colors and seaweed-like texture. Chef Slade Rushing surprised us by bringing out the Duck Pâté and Sweetbread Salad, courtesy of our friend who had recommended the restaurant to us (thanks G!). He was as friendly as he could be, taking the time to visit and explain each dish. We learned that in addition to using the liver, MiLa prepares its duck pâté with the thigh and breast meat as well, which helps to mask the strong liver flavor that usually turns me off. Their duck pâté is studded with dark cherries that create a tart sweetness and pistachios to give it a nutty, salty bite. Coming from someone who has never liked pâté, I couldn’t stop eating this stuff… it was awesome. The sweetbread salad was also beautifully executed, combining plump sweetbreads with curly endive and buttermilk dressing for a buttery, bitter, and sweet flavor that was pure harmony. For our entrees the boys ordered the Braised Veal Cheeks and I ordered the Filo-Crusted Red Fish. I loved the delicate crust on the outside of my fish, which is achieved by using small strips of phyllo dough to coat the outside and then baking it to a golden brown, resulting in a thin and crispy outer shell. The filet of fish was of a substantial size compared to the veal cheeks, making it a great value for the $20 lunch. For dessert we had the Coconut Panna Cotta with Strawberry Puree and Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding with Rum Soaked Raisins. Both desserts were very sweet, had wonderful depths of flavor, and were the perfect ending to an absolutely fantastic lunch.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will go back to MiLa, specifically for dinner to try the $65 seasonal tasting menu ($100 if you want the one that includes wine pairings). The use of organic and local ingredients to create quality food that’s as beautiful as it is delicious is what makes MiLa one of my new favorite restaurants. With rave reviews popping up in local magazines and on food critics’ websites, MiLa earns its praise as eclectic Southern food at its very best.