Good and reasonable Cajun food in the L.A. area
- richoso12 Jul 22, 2010 04:02 AM
Anybody got a handle on some good Cajun food at a reasonable price?
Even at unreasonable prices it's something that LA just doesn't deliver on to the breadth of depth it does in so many other ethnic areas (for whatever reason one would like to postulate). That said here are some recent threads which survey the "usual suspects" in and around the greater LA area.
re: mucho gordo
Cajun cuisine is typified by simple, rural dishes prepared using locally available ingredients, especially wild game and seafood. That means taking what you have and making it taste as good as possible with the least amount of cost and time involved. Cajun food is generally very spicy but, ordinarily, not overly pepper. “Hot sauce”, if desired, is usually added at the table, not cooked-in. Unless fried, main entrees are usually prepared beginning with a “trinity” of bell peppers, onion and celery sautéed in either butter, rendered fat or vegetable oil as a base. Cajun main dishes are often prepared in a single pot, most likely a large, black, cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven. Rice and cornbread are common sides. Cajun cuisine is primarily based upon African (slaves), French, Spanish and American Indian cooking traditions.
In contrast, Creole cuisine, endemic to New Orleans and its surrounds, is exemplified by more elaborate, multi-step, multi-pot preparations using a variety of ingredients from far and wide. Generally, cost and prep time are not constraints. Most Creole entrees begin with the preparation of a roux, a tedious blending of hot oil, rendered fat or butter and flour. The aforementioned “trinity” is then added to the roux. Many dishes that people associate with Cajun cuisine are, in fact, Creole in origin. Examples include gumbo, etouffe and blackened fish and meat dishes. In contrast to its Cajun counterpart, Creole cuisine incorporates a much broader range of international cultural influences including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Germanic, Mediterranean, Caribbean and, of course, African. Creole food is quite often “fired-up” via the more liberal use of cooked-in cayenne and other peppers.
In a word, Cajun is country while Creole is city, yet there are indeed places where the fork in the road meets at the junction.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but SoCal is a Cajun cuisine culinary wasteland. Most folks, including those who serve it, really do not know what it is let alone how it should be prepared. They don’t even know the difference between Cajun, Creole and soul food. When I have encountered a reasonable approximation, reasonable pricing is usually away for the day.
Years ago, Ragin’ Cajun in Hermosa Beach was all the rage. It now is not what it used to be. Notably, it is the only expressly Cajun venue that I know of in SoCal. The owner, Stephen Domingue, and his family are bone fide Cajuns from Lafayette, Louisiana, the recognized capitol of Cajun country. It remains decidedly true to its roots, decent, reasonably priced, yet somewhat inconsistent as is nearby New Orleans Cajun & Creole Cuisine. I’ve heard good things about Café Boogaloo, also nearby, but I’ve yet to try it. A combination club/restaurant, it features regular live entertainment. All three should be worthy of a visit.
That said, perhaps the best SoCal Cajun cuisine that I’ve enjoyed outside of home has been at Harold & Belles. They offer decent gumbo, etouffés and jambalaya, excellent fried chicken/shrimp/catfish/oysters and Louisiana hot sausage among other Cajun/Creole/Soul dishes. Pricey but, imho, worth it. There are virtually no viable alternatives for authenticity, quality and consistency in SoCal. They are a family-run venue in the same location for over 40 years; so, they must be doing something right.
Harold & Belle’s
2920 W. Jefferson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
422 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
New Orleans Cajun & Creole Cuisine
140 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
1238 Hermosa Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
CAFE DU QVONDEYZ on the corner of Vanowen and Vesper. It used to be a Taco Bell. Sign on the front says "real Cajun". I passed by yesterday and noticed it for the first time; I think it's fairly new.
CAVEAT: I looked it up and read a few unfavorable reviews. Maybe because the place is new. I hesitated to pass this on but, with this caveat, 'forewarned is forearmed'.
Harold & Belle's is problably the best Cajun Restaurant in LA but their prices are a little on the high side.
Since Creole Chef closed, I have been getting my reasonably priced Cajun Fix at Bayou Grille:
1400 North La Brea Ave
Los Angeles Times Review of Bayou Grille: