Instead it turned up in the same armful of plates as that formidable dish and ended up being overwhelmed by it. (Service is attentive enough, if not exactly polished.) But there was no dishonor here, since the jambalaya ($10) left us gasping with pleasure. The dish was studded with peeled shrimp and knuckles of seriously spicy andouille sausage, and the low volcano of rice, cooked with tomatoes and green bell peppers, had been infused with enough cayenne to be spicy-hot in its own right.
In keeping with the complex, squabbling-siblings narrative of Cajun and creole, there are Cajun and creole interpretations of jambalaya. The latter (and perhaps the original) kind includes tomatoes and is accordingly reddish, while the former is tomatoless and acquires its brown color from the initial searing of meat in the pan. Either way, jambalaya is a New World descendant of paella and, like its close relation gumbo (a child of bouillabaisse), reflects the complex play of influences French, Spanish, Caribbean, African that produced the well-seasoned cultural stew of New Orleans and South Louisiana.
I would add Irish to that list if there were (but there isn't) any historical warrant for doing so, since Nickie's feels somehow Irish, and to be served excellent Cajun and creole food, along with a foamy glass of draft Guinness, by a server with an Irish accent in a pub on Haight Street in San Francisco is one of life's delightful little paradoxes. Paradox is the spice of life let's get that into our book of quotations, truisms, aphorisms for all occasions, and words to live by. *
Mon.Fri., 4 p.m.2 a.m.; Sat.Sun., noon2 a.m.
466 Haight, SF
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