Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Louisiana on Larchmere

Ever since Scott Himmel moved on from Boulevard Blue, the restaurant he operated on Larchmere Road, to focus on Paladar in the Eton Collection, the old place has suffered an identity crisis. It’s been home to a succession of chefs and concepts- neither of which last very long. Part of the problem may have been that every tenant has tried to do here what’s already being done elsewhere, from sustainable, locally sourced and seasonal cuisine and edgy inventive presentations that showcase the chef to steak and potatoes. Now Menu 6 is gone, replaced by Jezebel’s Bayou which bills itself as a New Orleans inspired kitchen. Since there’s no place else around to sit down and enjoy gator bites and Big Easy style barbecued shrimp this qualifies as a genuinely fresh idea with broad appeal. It might just be what the neighborhood’s been waiting for and the right fit for this location.

The dining room was pretty well populated for a week night when I visited recently- a good sign. The folks in charge have made only minimal changes to the big room which has always been a good dining space. No more tablecloths, some Mardi Gras art on the walls, a long banquette slightly alters the seating set up, and candles add glow. I had a personal accomplishment to celebrate so I started off with one of the house’s special cocktails- the Paris Match, a mix of Absolut Vodka, St. Germain, club soda and fresh lime juice- and enjoyed every sip. A complimentary plate of just-out-of-the oven mini jalapeno corn muffins came soon after drinks, but they didn’t last too long.

The menu offers just what you’d expect when inspiration comes from Cajun and Creole cooking. There’s jambalaya, crawfish tails, fried oysters, po-boys and sides of red beans and rice. My gumbo Ya Ya was thick with the requisite chicken and andouille (though I had to send it back because it arrived lukewarm. To his credit, the server was gracious and responsive, whisking it away and promptly bringing me a properly heated portion). The husband had the pecan crusted catfish appetizer. It tasted good but at $8.95 seemed over-priced for the portion size. On the other hand, at $6 the piece of blackened redfish he added to his sweet and crunchy praline salad ($8.95) was a steal. Large and prepared just right it turned the big bowl of field greens studded with dried cherries, pecans, and mandarin orange slices into a satisfying entrĂ©e. We shared that and an order of seafood etouffe, milder and seasoned with a light hand, but tasty and a nice change of pace.

In addition to a Tuesday-Friday Happy Hour from 5-6:30 PM featuring seven $5 small plates, Jezebel’s Bayou is doing a second version of the bargain time slot, Tuesday- Thursday from 10-11 PM and Fridays 11 PM-1 AM. Select items from the dinner menu are available until 11 pm weeknights, and 1 AM Friday and Saturday- later than other restaurants in the area. More reason to stop by and check out what's happening here.

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