‘Taste memories’ inform MiLa’s sweetbreads

UPSCALE

Pan-Roasted Sweetbreads

MiLa

817 Common St., (504) 412-2580

milaneworleans.com

This standout appetizer ($16) draws together influences from different chapters in the careers of co-chefs Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing, from their hitch together at Gerard’s Downtown to Allison’s time at acclaimed New York restaurant Alain Ducasse to the couple’s first Louisiana restaurant, Longbranch in Abita Springs.

“Chefs have to have taste memory, pieces and elements that stay with you,” Rushing said. “You can work those into other dishes you do next. Sometimes they don’t work, but when they do that’s how a great new dish can come together.”

In this case, past dishes and techniques learned along the way create crisp-edged sweetbreads doused in a rich sherry and bacon jus that dribbles through dense, creamy grits strung with the earthy essence of black truffles. It may not look too elegant, but it’s likely to plant some taste memeories of its own.

CASUAL

Sauteed Vegetable Plate

Lebanon’s Café

1500 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 862-6200; lebanonscafe.com

The long menu at this Middle Eastern cafe brings in many distinctive dishes, including one hidden under the deceptively dull-sounding name “sautéed vegetable plate” ($12.99). Meatless but truly hearty, it packs prodigious amounts of vegetables including (but not limited to) mushrooms, squash, carrot, three colors of pepper, broccoli and cauliflower, all under a salty, sour cap of melted mozzarella studded with feta. A bed of basmati rice underneath is invisible until you start excavating this pile of produce, which makes one filling entrée or a great dish to share as a vegetable side.

WILDCARD

Snails with Black Beans

Little Chinatown

3800 Williams Blvd., (504) 305-0580; littlechinatown.net

The specials board here advertises dishes in both Chinese and English and on any given night is likely to include snails with black beans ($12.95). This is not some Asian escargot rendition. Rather, you get a plate ladled with dozens and dozens of dark, periwinkle-sized sea snails, all shining with a spicy black bean sauce. Extracting the small bits of meat from their shells requires some effort (you basically grip them in your fingers and slurp), and the payoff is a marine-tinged bite pulsing with black pepper. It works best as a dish to pass around with dining companions who share a taste for the exotic and no concerns about getting their hands messy.