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Feb 6, 2008 05:53 AM

How was the Mardi Gras Dinner?

How was it, highlights, lowlights? Any pictures?

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  1. I've had some leftovers, which really weren't too bad ,but then again, I just came off of eating airline food for the past 20 hours. I, too, am looking forward to a comprehensive report back, since the little I've heard so far had been on the mixed, not too great side....

    5 Replies
    1. re: baltoellen

      Yeah, that's my take. Mixed, not too great. Some things were very, very good. Some were mediocre. Nothing that I had was really bad.

      The gumbo, which was our first course, was excellent. Thick and spicy, with chunks of andouille okra. They did a superb job with this dish.

      The shrimp skewers were ok. The BBQ sauce was nothing special (and I'm not really a fan of BBQ sauce anyway). Nice presentation, but the flavors didn't excite me.

      The macaroni and cheese (with another blue substituted for the promised Maytag) was excellent. I liked this a lot.

      The jamalaya was flat and not really interesting, although one diner at my table figured out that adding salt livened it up considerably. The cornbread and sweet potato butter was as delicious as advertised.

      The cornmeal catfish with grits was well-cooked, although again it needed a generous dose of salt and pepper to liven it up.

      The biggest problem, and one that seemed to bother most of us, was that to get through the courses listed above took three hours and 45 minutes. I left at 10:15, before we'd seen any sign of the promised garlic spinach, mashed sweet potatoes, pecan pork loin or even the crawfish dip and bread. It was an insane amount of time for dinner. Roughly half of the group had also left by that point.

      We took a look at the regular menu while we were there, and frankly it didn't look all that interesting. One diner summed it up as upscale bar food.

      The things that worked did work well, but given that most of us weren't even able to complete the meal and the fact that some of the dishes were mediocre, I'm not sure I'd be in a hurry to return.

      1. re: JonParker

        Overall, I agree with Jon's assessment. The staff and owners were so friendly and welcoming, though, it feels a little like going to a friend's for dinner and dissing the meal on the Internet. We left about when Jon did. No food appeared until almost 8.If you stayed, it must have been an insane amount of food.
        The gumbo was great, spiked with a real roux such as one seldom finds here. The bbq sauce on the shrimp was, I suspect, KC Masterpiece. The mac and cheese was great, ditto the corn bread and sweet potato butter.The jambalaya was the only version of this that I've ever had which could be described as bland. The crawfish tasted a bit off. The catfish was moist, but I didn't detect any buttermilk in the cornmeal batter and the grits appeared to be Quaker Oats instant.
        Also, we were all seated at 2 and 4-tops which took away from the conviviality we've enjoyed at other chowhound dinners.

        1. re: ko1

          While I wasn't there, of course, perhaps being constructive about the hits and misses of the meal should help what sounds like great people running the restaurant make some needed adjustments to the menu....the place does sound very promising....

          1. re: baltoellen

            Ellen, most of what we had isn't on the regular menu. There's no way anyone could read this discussion and get an idea of what they are like on an average night, because they weren't doing their normal thing.

            That said, while they were very nice, I just wasn't impressed enough with the food to make a point of returning.

        2. re: JonParker

          I agree with most of Jon's assessments on the menu, though one caveat is that most of the dishes served are not on the regular menu -- it was a menu put together just for this event and serving food that isn't necessarily the chef's specialty.

          That said, I still enjoyed the foodt. The smokey/sweet sauce paired really well with the shrimp, though I would have left the shrimp just a minute or so longer on the grill to develop a little more char flavor. Gumbo was really good, as was the mac and cheese, and the catfish had beautiful texture (crunchy outside, juicy and flaky inside) though could have used a good dose of salt/pepper/flavor, as previously mentioned. The jambalaya was the only real dud, as it lacked really almost any sort of flavoring.

          I figured that for the lack of flavoring in the catfish and the jambalaya, it was mostly a matter of the chef not tasting the food before plating it -- it was too obvious an omission!

          It was a great time! The chef and servers were really friendly, it was a great atmosphere, we had great service, and they must have lost money on our meal given the number and size of dishes that they prepared.

          I agree that the major issue was the length of time for service. I think that in their defence, this may have been the first time they've served this many people simultaneously. Perhaps they ran out of plates or needed to wash/dry them as they went?

          Darker than Blue has potential, and I think that it's a place very worthy of a visit.

          Thanks to crowsonguy and the chef/owners of Darker Than Blue for putting on a great event!

      2. I agree that the service was quite sluggish. I also agree that the dishes were hit and miss. The gumbo was great however I found the rice to be a bit too al dente for my taste - actually it bordered on crunchy. Ditto the rice in the jambalaya. The shrimp skewers and salad were well prepared. I really enjoyed the mac & cheese. The bleu cheese was quite a different twist. The cornbread and sweet potato butter were delicious. The catfish and grits were great once liberal doses of salt and Tabasco were added. The pecan crusted pork loin with spinach and mashed sweet potatoes were quite tasty, however I was quite stuffed by the time they were brought out. I soldiered on though! ;-)

        The chef and his partners were quite friendly. The chef's good natured, jovial manner enhanced the meal IMHO. I agree with ko1's analogy that it's like dissing a friend's cooking online. All in all I think that it was a great deal for $40. I want to see this restaurant succeed so I will be back. I do wonder if the unevenness was due to individually plating for 30 people simultaneously. I am curious to see a regular dinner service.

        Just my $.02

        6 Replies
        1. re: amethiste

          I agree with everyone's take on the meal...some things were VERY good (really great gumbo, corn bread and that mac and cheese - yum!), others not quite as good (but nothing was bad).

          But I also agree that this was a very special occasion, and because of that I want to give total kudos to the owner/chef/staff and many sincere thanks to the organizers of this meal!! I think that they went out on a limb to try something special for all of us and they were ALL very nice and accomodating. I usually wouldn't have minded the slow pace but we had kid obligations...I wish that we could have stayed to the end.

          Most of all, I think that most of the food was definitely good enough to give that place some business!! Really, just for undertaking the huge task of cooking for 30 chowhounds at the same time they should deserve our thanks for the effort. I've had many worse experiences at many other places around town, that's for sure. And we sure got a lot for that price. It was a different kind of night and I wish that I could have mingled a bit more...but I had a nice time nonetheless. I look forward to more chowhoundy experiences...

          1. re: sistereurope

            I agree. I think the chef and owners deserve a hearty thanks. I really would like to see this restaurant succeed

            1. re: amethiste

              I'd like to add my thanks as well. I don't want to sound unappreciative of the huge effort, amazing deal, and some very good food.

              1. re: ko1

                The amount of effort that the chefs put in was extraordinary. I didn't see the menu, but I would be curious how the restaurant changes when there are not as many people ordering at the same time.

                My favorite dish was the gumbo. It was spicy and warm with a good balance between the smoothness of the broth and the texture of the sausage, okra, and rice (which were really quite nicely done).

                The blue cheese mac and cheese was also very tasty.

                My major complaints with the jambalaya and catfish/grits were that they lacked both punch and temperature. My jambalaya, especially the crayfish, was cold. The jambalaya improved with salt, but it felt as if someone didn't taste it before serving. Infuse it with the same level of spice and flavor of the gumbo, and it could be much, much better. I'm not from the South and have never developed a taste for grits, but the catfish was flaky and flavorful minus the breading (which was bland).

                Did anyone stay and try the last two dishes?

                1. re: Kelbell

                  The last dish was pork loin ( a better-than substitute for pork tenderloin) with a pecan crust in a rich kahlua sauce with Casey's great sauteed garlic spinach. The shame of it was that this was the best course of all, showing the chef's ability with flavor and texture contrasts, and his skill at keeping meat tender (the chicken kebabs on the regular menu are the only ones I have ever tasted in a restaurant that are not dried out). Why was it a shame? Because there were only about 8 of us left at that point, and we were a little too full to appreciate it.

                  I think the menu was too ambitious, the chef needed a trained sous chef for the night, and the timing was way off. But the man has talent, and it is definitely worth trying out on a regular evening (maybe not Valentine's Day!)

                  1. re: crowsonguy

                    Thanks for putting this together, Nick, and getting us to check out a place we might have ordinarily missed. I wish them well.

        2. I think Darker than Blue deserves a ton of credit. They are a new business, small, and, probably have never had a party that takes up the whole house.

          To have one sitting, rather than the two or three they would normally have, would slam any commercial kitchen.

          I do agree that the meal took too long, primarily because of the wait time between courses, but I believe this was because the menu was too large. It oculd have easily have been three or four courses and been very good. There was just too much food.

          I feel strongly that people should return, on a regular night, and see how their experience is. I have a gut feeling this could be, once they get their legs, a great hidden jem.

          1. I agree with others about which dishes shined and which did not. I really wanted to stay for the pork loin, but finally left around 10:10. What time did it finally come out?

            I thought the chef was really nice. I enjoyed his speech at the beginning; his humor and honesty. He's from New York, so many of the Louisiana dishes on the chowhound menu were new to him. While waiting between courses, I looked at the regular menu and decided I will probably bring the rest of the family to the restaurant for them to try. With the exception of the gumbo, all the dishes that I enjoyed were from the regular menu. The regular menu lists food that is not too adventurous, which will be fine for my non-chowhoundish family. If the rest of the regular menu is as good as the corn bread and the Mac & Cheese, it should be a hit.