Clarence's Taste of New Orleans
Hooray, I finally made it! And I am so glad I did. Bawlmer folks, take the MARC train from Penn Station. This place is right across the street from the Edgewood stop. You will be soooo glad you made this trip. And then you can doze on the train ride home, because you WILL overeat. Very generous portions + great food = food coma.
We were a party of four and there were no clunkers.
The gumbo was lovely, just missing okra. Very nicely spiced, and I thought undersalted. (In fact, I salted everything---including my pecan pie---but then I am a saltoholic. The couple we dined with didn't salt a thing.) Clarence uses his own mix of spices in everything, and the gumbo got our taste buds up and awake and ready for more.
The soup of the day was a cream of artichoke. Rich and creamy (though probably a bit more cornstarchy than I would have liked), also with a kick. Lots of artichoke hearts. Verrrrry nice.
I had a sampler platter, as did Mr. V. Mine had red beans and rice and jambalaya. The beans 'n rice were lovely---the beans buttery and soft, the rice perfectly cooked. Bay leaves abounded, and it was very subtly spiced. You can get the jambalaya as-is or upgrade it with shrimp and Tasso ham. The Tasso ham is sent over from N'awlins and oh lordy is it lovely. Smoky, salty bits of goodness.
The other sampler had the shrimp creole, etoufee, red beans and rice, and a pice of Southern Fried chicken. The Shrimp Creole was tangy and spicy and damn good. I felt like the rice/sauce balance was off, however. Too much rice. I have had better etoufee, but I will take what I can get up in these here parts! The fried chicken---amazing. So much food.
Our dining companions each had catfish: one with a shrimp and a tangy black sauce (Catfish Meuniere) and the other with crab. The catfish was perfectly fried, and a lovely piece of fish. The Meuniere sauce was outstanding.
From the sides, the Angry Cajun Cole Slaw won us all over. I think it's cabbage in remoulade sauce. What's not to like?????? :)
Save room for dessert. There was one piece of pecan pie, which I got since everyone else opted for bread pudding (with or without whiskey sauce). I have never tried a bread pudding that I have liked. Clarence's knocked my socks off. I kept sneaking bites of it off of Mr. V's plate. I have never, ever had a second helping of bread pudding before. Ever. Yet I would order Clarence's in a heartbeat: It was on the dryer side (which I prefer), it was buttery, wonderfully spiced, and fully of plump raisins. The filling of the pecan pie was spectacular---moist, rich, and gooey without being dry and sticky. Whole pecans on top, pecan pieces throughout. I've had better crust, but this a minor point.
They have a frequent dining card--if you go three time in three months, you'll get a card for 10% off all subsequent meals.
The place has a very N'awlins during Mardi Gras feel: beads on the tables, masks on the cherub in the fountain....A second room with a bar for people who want bar fare, which is also on the menu.
Clarence makes his own french bread on the premesis, which makes me think that the po' boys on the menu would rock. I am certain that this is why his bread pudding is so damn good. It's all about the bread. And lack of gloop.
Overall, we were extremely satisfied, and extremely full. While some of the dishes lacked that uber-rich, uber-polished, high-end New Orleans sauced amazingness (a la Commander's Palace), this was honest-to-goodness, homemade Cajun food. In a most unlikely place!
Go. You will be glad you did!