“Honey, your order’s up right meow.” The banter between the owners is just an inkling of the charm that Nouvelle holds.
The husband, Cody, and I were in Norfolk and in the need for some dinner before a Matt and Kim concert at The NorVa. After recalling Nouvelle’s piercing mural that I spotted a few weeks prior, finding a dinner spot was a no-brainer.
Once we sat in our cozy spot next to the window overlooking the kitchen and striking blood orange walls, Luke—our server/chef/co-owner of Nouvelle—relayed our drink orders over his shoulder to Rina, also chef/bartender/other half of Nouvelle and better half of Luke.
We started with the Moules Frites ($12), a Belgian-inspired dish of fries and mussels. A dollop of velvety wild chive aioli accompanied over a dozen meaty mussels and hand-cut fries. Beneath was a silky, lemon-laden white wine broth with herbs and shallots. Not one drop of that nectar was left behind. The fries were pillowy, perfect for dipping into the broth, aioli or even their homemade ketchup.
While this could certainly double as an entrée, we ordered the Seared Sea Scallops with Sage ($12) and a seafood pasta special ($18) to delve further into their menu.
Sage leaves punched big toasty flavor as they lay on lush scallops nestled in a chickpea purée. The fluffy purée was straightforward, earthy and gritty. The scallops were buttery and juicy, seared to golden perfection. A fresh mesclun salad balanced the dish to make way for the peppery sweet beet sauce dappled around the plate. The balsamic beet sauce was dense with a jam consistency that I wanted to take home to swipe across my toast.
My better half ordered the evening’s special. Linguini slithered between feathers of tender lump crab meat, mussels and honey-hued scallops. Tomatoes gushed with each bite. The pasta was dressed in a light white wine sauce with a garlicky tang, and that was a-okay with me.
Luke and Rina moved from Texas to Virginia Beach less than two years ago and are already making a name for themselves after opening Nouvelle’s doors last August. While the menu is very much French-inspired, Crispy Adobo Quail and Kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche nod to Rina’s Filipino heritage. After travelling Europe, Rina told us she fell in love with the French cooking style, the precious time it takes to prepare the food and the rich conversation spent over shared meals.
Nouvelle sits at 217 Grace Street in Downtown Norfolk. They are open Monday–Saturday 11 am. to 9 p.m. Visit their Facebook page for daily menu updates.