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Apr 21, 2008 10:11 AM

Before I email the owner/chef..... [Moved from New Orleans board]


We're from Wisconsin. Have been to NOLA several times and cooking class there twice. Have eaten at many of the quintessential establishments and have, we think, learned how to cook the cuisine.

We ate at a new-ish restaurant, here in town, that holds itself out as a "semi-fine Cajun/Creole" establishment. As the area has a NOLA take-out house that ROCKS and a very nice high-end restaurant that does a very nice job with Cajun/Creole, we need this niche filled.

We wanted to like the place.

Before I proceed with my judgement of the place, I would like some CH feedback to ensure that my frame of reference is in order:

1) My Sazerac was served on the rocks - Should I have had to order it "up"? I've never had this served on the rocks.

2) The gumbo was, in my wife's words, a "nice soup but not a gumbo" - It was tomato-based and definitely not roux-based. Can it be gumbo without starting with the mantra "first you make a roux..."?

3) Should etoufee be thin and watery? Again, not roux-based.

4) Jambalaya - This is a dish OF rice and other ingredients, not a dish served OVER rice, correct?

5) Rice - They used Chinese style sticky short-grain rice rather than good, fluffy, long grain. Long-grain for this cuisine, correct?

We really need this place, in town, and want to go back. However, if you're going to do a NOLA restaurant I would think you'd need to get the basics of gumbo/etoufee/jambalaya really down to a science.

Your opinions?

Thanks in advance,

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  1. My Sazerac was served on the rocks - Should I have had to order it "up"? I've never had this served on the rocks.

    Galatoire's serves their Sazeracs on the rocks. Everywhere else in New Orleans serves them straight up

    1. I'll offer my opinions:

      I prefer my Sazerac on the rocks but most often I've seen them up.
      Roux shouldn't necessarily thicken a gumbo as much as it should flavor it. When flour is cooked slowly in fat to very dark, it loses most of it's thickening "power." Okra or file' thicken gumbo for the most part. I do not believe tomatoes belong in gumbo, ever....etouffee and jambalaya either...never.
      If etouffee or gumbo sit on a steamtable, they become thin and watery. This should be prevented. Shortcuts result in substandard food. Of course it shouldn't be too thick either.
      Jambalaya is prepared in one pot and the rice should "split". Short grain rice is common in Louisiana. Never use converted rice. If the stuff has tomatoes in it, I'm out and I'm mad.
      I reckon we won't be able to find out which restaurant you refer to but I'd really like to know so I can avoid it.

      1. What you experienced really is no different than what I've experienced at Cajun and Creole restaurants around the country. I have found that it is very difficult to get authentic (or inauthentic but still good) Cajun and Creole food outside of Lousiana, to the point that I've given up trying.

        1. I find #4 to be the most bothersome. I've actually seen jambalaya prepared that way on a TV cooking show, and it's absurd. Never should some kind of sauce served over rice be confused with jambalaya. On #2, not all gumbos are made with a roux, and many gumbos do have a tomato product.

          1. You'd think the owner/chef would have had some good recipes before he opened, wouldn't you?

            You don't have to use a roux in gumbo, but I agree it woudn't taste very good. My recipe uses a roux, tomatoes, and okra.

            Jambalaya should be like a cajun paella. You can get a box of Zataran's mix at Wal Mart. It's a good product.

            Once I was in Denver at a "New Orleans" style restaurant and got 2lbs of crawfish, they served it as an entree for over $10, and the crawfish were all washed and clean and lined up very prettily. I had to laugh.

            Are there any good "New Orleans" restaurants outside of New Orleans?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Carrolltonsnob

              Carrolltonsnob, I think you just nailed it. OP is in WISCONSIN !! New Orleans food gets a lot of its flavor by being in the city itself. Im not saying that the gumbo/jambalaya etc. cannot be replicated authentically outside the state (we've got some great NO style restaurants here in Houston, with chefs that were trained in NO) but sometimes things like etoufee and gumbo are recipes that reflect individual styles and preferences. Sort of like every Italian grandmother has HER own sauce.

              1. re: Cheflambo

                Ok. One's cuisine represents his styles and preferences, I'll agree completely. And I tend to see more tomato product in New Orleans proper.
                If I were to sample a gumbo or jambalaya that was a generations old family recipe, *where you were born and raised becomes more apparent. Without trying to get into this too much, the difference is creole and cajun. New Orleans is big but in my opinion, the best gumbos, jambalayas and etouffees are found outside and south and would never include tomato.

                One of the favorite gumbo memories was served to me while on break in the kitchen of La Provence when Besh was chef de cuisine and well before he owned it. Probably around 1997. A very nice recipe can be found here:

                1. re: crimsonfancy

                  as you say, Crimsonfancy: authentic creole recipes will/may have tomato, authentic cajun recipes will (almost certainly) not. creole cooking= in the new orleans melting pot, cajun= acadian, country cooking, louisiana outside of new orleans. both are venerable and respected cuisines which influence each other and overlap at times, but they are distinct.

                  but a restaurant (no matter where it is located-- moscow for all we should care) that bills itself creole/cajun, well, then it would seem that it can use a creole(tomato) *or* a cajun(no tomato) recipe as it sees fit.