Chef Alon Shaya has been dribbling out the news about his forthcoming Israeli restaurant like olive oil over hummus, and the latest dollop also marks the end of a once-promising Uptown restaurant.
Shaya's company Pomegranate Hospitality confirmed the news, as did Kenton's proprietors Mani Dawes and Sean Josephs.
Kenton's will serve its last dinner on March 18. After that, Shaya's company will take over its lease. Saba is slated to open there sometime this spring following a renovation.
Josephs said that while they felt welcome and at home in their New Orleans restaurant, Kenton's wasn't meeting its financial goals. Knowing it had to close, the couple worked behind the scenes to find another restaurateur to take over the space.
“If there’s one thing we’re proud of, we created a path to protect our investors,” Josephs said. “We protected the people who believed in us.”
Josephs and Dawes each run restaurants in New York (his: Maysville; hers: Tia Pol). They opened Kenton's in 2015 in a newly built complex at Magazine Street and Nashville Avenue. It was part of their family's homecoming (Dawes grew up nearby) and opened with a lavish bourbon collection and a Southern menu synced to the flavors of smoke and char.
For his part, Shaya said in a statement that "this process has been like changing hands from one friend to another. We look forward to firing up some pita and celebrating the culinary heritage of Israel in our new home."
That new home is about a mile up Magazine Street from the modern Israeli restaurant that still bears his name, Shaya Restaurant.
In February, Shaya first announced he planned to open Saba (Hebrew for grandfather), without revealing its address, along with a second restaurant in Denver, called Safta (Hebrew for grandmother). Both will serve contemporary Israeli cuisine, a blend of Middle Eastern flavors with other influences from the global Jewish diaspora.
The forthcoming restaurants will be under the umbrella of Pomegranate Hospitality, the culinary company Shaya formed last fall after a high-profile split with his former boss and business partner John Besh.
Shaya was fired from Besh's company in September. A month later, a newspaper investigation documented accusations of sexual misconduct at the company and led to a shake-up of one of the city's top restaurant groups.
In October, Alon Shaya filed trademark requests to use the name Shaya. Besh's restaurant group filed suit blocking him. In the next round, Alon Shaya asked the court to instead prohibit the Besh group from using the name. He requested an injunction that would strip the name from Shaya Restaurant while the dispute makes its way through court. A pretrial conference for the case is still nearly a year away, set for Jan. 8. A judge denied that injunction earlier this month, essentially allowing Besh's company to continue using the name Shaya Restaurant.
Final pies from Pizza Nola
Pizza Nola (141 W. Harrison Ave., 504-872-0731), known for its festive annual events, will close next week. The Lakeview restaurant's last day is Sunday, though co-owner Will Samuels said he plans to sell king cakes at the location during the next Carnival season.
In the meantime, Samuels said he's seeking another restaurant to occupy the address.
"We have had a good 7½ years, but we must realize that financially we are unable to keep the restaurant operating under the current economic climate," he said. "After a slow second-half of 2017, we were counting on a much bigger financial boost from this Carnival season to get us back on track. Unfortunately, we did not get that."
During Carnival season, the neighborhood pizzeria had a dual identity as a distribution point for king cakes from Dong Phuong, the Vietnamese-style bakery in New Orleans East that has won broad acclaim for its cakes.
Pizza Nola hosted an annual Carnival kickoff party to celebrate Twelfth Night and the start of king cake season, and as Mardi Gras approached it became common to see customers queued in line for the popular Dong Phuong king cake.
This year, however, Dong Phuong faced runaway demand for its cakes and, two weeks before the end of a short Carnival season, stopped distributing them beyond its own bakery on Chef Menteur Highway.