April 18, 2019

With Otra Vez, New York chef brings his Mexican cooking to New Orleans

Mexican food gave chef Akhtar Nawab, who opened Otra Vez in New Orleans on Monday (April 15), a second act. Nawab, a protege to Tom Colicchio and a mentor to David Chang, opened his first restaurant, Elettaria, in New York in 2008. The critics were kind, but the recession crushed the restaurant. Nawab, born in Kentucky and of Indian heritage, then got a job cooking high-end Mexican food. He discovered an affinity between the complex dishes of Mexico and the layered Indian food of his family.

Today, Nawab is known for Alta Calidad, a Brooklyn restaurant where he offers a personal take on Mexican food. Otra Vez, which means “again” in Spanish, follows a similar playbook.

The tamale at Otra Vez illustrates Nawab’s approach. The masa, or corn flour, is made with carrot juice, to give it an earthy sweetness. He fills the inside of the tamale with aligot, a French blend of cheese and mashed potatoes. The he tops it with mole manchamanteles, a traditional mole made with peppers, nuts and fruit.

“It’s a super French dish that hits the Mexican realm,” Nawab said. “You have this really different take on a tamale, but a cheese tamale is a traditional street food.”

Other dishes at Otra Vez include sweet and spicy queso fundido, slow roasted beef ribs with pickles and salsa, tacos made with brisket and tempura fried shrimp tacos. The shrimp tacos are popular at the Brooklyn restaurant, but at Otra Vez they’re a little different: Nawab uses Gulf shrimp.

“I haven’t had shrimp better than what I’ve had here. They’re so flavorful,” Nawab said.

Opened: April 15

On the menu: Sweet and spicy queso fundido ($9); roasted drum tacos ($10); pumpkin blossom quesadilla ($12); chile relleno with crawfish ($19) (See a PDF of the full dinner menu)

Need to know: One corner of the restaurant is a casual taquería called ACTQ with quick orders for dine-in or carry-out. Starting Monday (April 22), ACTQ will be open daily from 11 a.m. until Otra Vez closes.

Hours: Monday through Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Otra Vez: 1001 Julia St., New Orleans


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