My Westside: The Creole Chef and BottleRock...
I recently moved to the Westside. I won’t tell you exactly where because you probably have no idea where it is anyway, but for a native “Central” Angelino who never imagined herself as a Westsider (Funny the things you do for love... ;)) it’s the PERFECT little spot. I can walk to everything, even Downtown Culver City. It’s along a road that can have me in the heart of L.A. in no time. Recently I took the bus to the Hollywood Bowl and it was amazing quick and painless. PLUS, we have a Tamale Lady that comes by every couple of days. It’s just PERFECT...
As many of you know, Downtown Culver City has been going through quite the Renaissance. Hip Eateries, Cute Galleries, and even more exciting for me, the new Wine Shop/Bar, BottleRock. Moving from Long Beach, I had a couple great wine/booze shops there that were like home. I’ve been trying to find that here, but as you can see by the recent state of my wine rack, I’ve had very little success with that...
Well, upon walking into BottleRock, the only thing that was missing was a welcome mat. The space was bright and open. Tables were spaced comfortably through out. Cases and displays of wine were well labeled and all readily accessible. I knew within one minute in the store that I was in trouble.
The selection is not as broad as Wine Country. Not as deep by country as Morry’s of Naples. But it’s well edited, TIGHT. The all the things I loved, I found. An amazing Moscato D’Asti. An Oregon Pinot. And then I turned around and saw the beer case... OMG... I admit, I’m still just a baby wine snob because Beer is this girls first love... and with their broad selection I was in heaven. And then I spied the deli case with a big slab of one of MY favorite cheese (Bermuda Triangle by Cypress Grove!). Again, it all was just PERFECT...
So within 15 minutes I had 6 bottles of wine with my name on them and 10 Bottles of Beer and Sake as well (The staff was very friendly not overbearing but VERY knowledgeable). I had to be talked down from the ledge and reminded that we live within walking distance, so I instead took my Moscato and Pinot, added a Nebbiolo for upcoming hearty fall dinners, A sherry (SO’s Thanksgiving tradition) and a French Cider. And so now after this trip and a last week’s trip to SF, my wine rack is looking happy again! :)
Which brings me to the reason I have yet to post anything about that trip and am reporting on a weekend (Which I rarely do). After our trip to the Creole Chef, I just had to rave....
Recently we got one of those fancy HE washers and being a bit obsessed with laundry had been searching for a particular HE detergent. We heard they had it at Walmart, of course there everyone knows that there is no Walmart on the Westside.... But SO did a search anyway, and we found that a Walmart actually a short distance away, at the Baldwin Hills Mall... And on a trip there, I spied a little restaurant near the Sears.
The Creole Chef, I remembered hearing raves and made a mental note that we’d have to be back and we got back as soon as we could.
The space was indeed small. The inside had tables for maybe 12 people. The outdoor patio was bigger, but not by much. The space was clean and adorable, you could really tell they cared about what little space they had, they even prettified their Styrofoam cups.
They had paper menu and a very nice chalkboard menu up on the wall. The menu was fairly standard but varied, all manner of Po’Boys, Hushpuppies, Sweet Potato Fries, Gumbo (regular and seafood) and Jambalaya (Regular and with Crawfish) and they had about four specials of the day which sounded fantastic (Authentic Muffeletta and a Pecan Crusted Catfish). You could see inside the kitchen, and see the staff working hard, but taking care with EACH plate (Which is more than I saw when I got a peek behind the curtain at other restaurants like La Buca). After salivating at BottleRock, we were starving and ordered WAY too much. We started with...
* Cup of Regular Jambalaya ($5.95): This was not one of those standard little cups, this was a good sized bowl. It was filled to the absolute brim with rich pieces of Chicken, big slices of Spicy Beef and Pork Sausage and chunks of Ham. The rice was cooked perfectly and the spice, the perfect level. It wasn’t a deep burn, but it was THERE. The best Jambalaya I’ve had...
* Fried Shrimp and Oyster Po’Boy ($10.95): This was an IMPRESSIVE sandwich, absolutely STUFFED with both Shrimp and Oysters (Which the one at the Gumbo Pot at the Farmer’s market, you need to HUNT for the Oysters!). The batter was not corn meal, it was more of a heavy batter, with strong CRUNCH. The Oysters were fried PERFECT, they were soft, but their taste was not too briny like those that are overdone. The shrimp also was good, meaty but not stringy. Along side was a cup of Creole Tartar Sauce which added lots of flavor and spice. The bread (Which accompanied everything we ordered!!) looked standard, except it was fresh baked and warm, soft on the inside, but crusty on the outside. Again, the best I’ve had...
* Half order of Shrimp Yvonne ($9.95): This is one of their proud specialties and had been previously raved about on the board. With a half order we got six perfectly cooked shrimp (Again not stringy or rubbery in the least!) that was absolutely BATHED in this tomato based thick spicy sauce. It had so many flavors going on, even though SO and I are pretty good cooks and hence can deconstruct most dishes, we had a hard time figuring out exactly how to replicate such a rich and flavorful sauce. It also came with that warm crusty and soft French bread to dip... Except for SO, he just ate it up with a spoon.
* Catfish Toulouse ($14.95): This was another one of the specials. And when it arrive, our eyes were just amazed at how HUGE it was. The catfish was smothered with more of that wonderful sauce and over a bed of rice, it also came with a side of Veggies. The Veggies were nothing special, but that catfish was. It was moist and tender. Almost fell apart when you dug in. The flavor was fresh and not a hint of the muddiness that sometimes you get with this type of fish. Although more expensive than most of the items on the menu, we loved it and thought it was a great bargain (Although next time we have to try the Pecan Crusted version! :))
At the end of our meal, we were STUFFED but thrilled. We had recently had a nice dinner at Brennan’s at Disney, but this meal blew that out of the water with the servings, preparations and most importantly the TASTE and COST. On the way home we were just gushing over everything, realizing again how we picked the absolute PERFECT place for us to move to. And if you guys ever find yourself in our neck of the woods, we can not strongly recommend ENOUGH that you give Creole Chef a try... heck, even if you aren’t nearby, we think it’s worth it! :)
We enjoyed Bottle Rock as well, people very friendly, willing to help, answer questions, but the bill quickly adds up and you don't feel full. We had the salami plate, white anchovies (stay away, they were encrusted in salt, way too salty), tomato burrata caprese, portabello panini.
creole chef is good, though great, i don't know.
i must say it blows harold and belle's out the water and gumbo pot too. and uncle darrow's can't even compete anymore.
anyways, their pralines are also good, nice tater salad, and the grilled shrimp po boy is pretty good as is the fried oyster po boy.
next time definitely giving the shrimp yvonne and the crawfish etouffee a try or the beef sausage po boy. that is if i can veer away from phillip's.
Hey, great report about BottleRock. I have to check it out, as it is indeed in my backyard. I was dubious of the "accessible" slant I prejudged they were taking when I saw how they were building out the space, but I should put my snobbery aside and dive in. What are the food offerings like? Is it a place for dinner, or more just vino and noshing?
Last, I would never want to shut down your quest for true HE detergent if it means we get to hear about more spots like Creole Chef, but we found that you can use regular detergent, just half what you would be directed to in a regular machine. We suspected as much, and we called Procter and Gamble to confirm. Absolutely true, and saves half the detergent $$ for more libations at BottleRock or Bin 8945 (which is great, BTW).
It's definitely more of a nosh place. They have a bunch of cheese (yum, yum, YUM!) and meats, pates, olives and other appetizers. (I wish I could remember more specifics, sorry.) They charge you less per plate if you order several. They have a really nice beer selection, in addition to their wines. Also, they'll open any bottle of wine if you order two glasses. This is really cool, because not only do YOU get to pick something that's not on the wine list, but the lucky drinkers who come after you can buy what's left over, so they get to try something not on the list as well (I had a glass of something that wasn't on the list that was amazing.) I'm a fan, clearly.
I agree with your review that Creole Chef is great. I ate at Creole Chef lasy week when I was in the neighborhood. It was a tough choice between Creole Chef and Phillips BBQ -- Creole Chef won out because I've eaten at Phillips before.
My lunch at Creole Chef consisted of a Bowl of Creole Jambalaya (24 oz) for $9.95 ($13.95 with Shrimp or Crawfish) and Crawfish Etouffee $11.95. The Jambalaya was very intensely flavored and had just a hint of heat -- a few splashes of Tabasco made it "warmer." One of the best Jambalayas I've had -- much much much better than the Jambalaya at Uncle Darrow's, Gumbo Pot and Ragin' Cajun. The Crawfish Etouffee was also very good. This was a pretty rich dish because of the butter in the roux and seafood stock. I will order this dish again but I wish it included a few more Crawfish though.
Next time, I'm going for the Shrimp Yvonne.
3715 Santa Rosalia Drive