In search of good, au­then­tic New Or­leans-style restaurants

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

For mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons, au­then­tic New Or­leans-style restaurants have never been very pop­u­lar in At­lanta. Even when a few refugees af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina opened restaurants here, they didn’t last long. The prob­lem seems to be “au­then­tic­ity.” Much of Louisiana’s cui­sine is mod­er­ately spicy, which is a plus for many peo­ple, but ap­par­ently ter­ri­fy­ing to most At­lantans. So what we mainly get here is menus of toned down jam­bal­ayas and gum­bos plus en­trees that barely re­late to Louisiana’s clas­sic dishes.

The lat­est to open is

Louisiana Bistreaux (1496 Church Street, 404-963-1463, louisian­abistreaux.com)

in De­catur’s hugely ex­panded Sub­ur­ban Plaza. This is ac­tu­ally the sis­ter of a pop­u­lar res­tau­rant of the same name near the air­port. Both are op­er­ated by Fred Delawalla, a man of In­dian her­itage who has lived in the states for many years. No, I don’t de­tect Bol­ly­wood in any as­pect of Delawalla’s cook­ing. In fact I find it more re­li­ably au­then­tic than most in town.

Louisiana Bistreaux’s web­site de­scribes the res­tau­rant’s fare as “In­spired Ca­jun Seafood.” That brings up a point of com­mon con­fu­sion. There’s Ca­jun cook­ing and there’s Cre­ole cook­ing. What’s the dif­fer­ence? Cre­ole is a city style. It’s more com­plex and uses toma­toes, while the Ca­jun, orig­i­nat­ing out­side the cities, uses no toma­toes and is for the most part the spicier of the two. They also be­gin with a dif­fer­ent roux – typ­i­cally but­ter and flour for Cre­ole, oil and flour for Ca­jun. Of course, both styles over­lap, so it gets con­fus­ing.

An ex­am­ple is the Bistreaux’s craw­fish etouf­fee, my usual test of Louisiana cook­ing. The ver­sion at Bistreaux seems to make use of toma­toes, so it would be Cre­ole in­stead of Ca­jun, de­spite its la­bel­ing as the lat­ter. I’m not com­plain­ing – the craw­fish were plump and juicy, the brown­ish red sauce was sub­tly pi­quant, and the serv­ing, like all here, was huge. I’m talk­ing take-half-the-plate-home huge.

De­spite my usual pref­er­ence for “clas­sic” Ca­jun, the best dish at my ta­ble was a to­tally wacky tower of grilled grouper coated with crum­bled Craw­ta­tor potato chips, made by Zapp’s. It was served over jalapeno-gouda grits, awash in a creamy craw­fish sauce. Pic­ture a vol­cano sur­rounded by the de­li­cious magma it just spewed.

The res­tau­rant buys its seafood from sus­tain­able sources, so most of it has great fla­vor. Another friend also or­dered grilled grouper, this time topped with lemon-but­ter sauce, craw­fish, and lump crab­meat. The fish was sur­rounded by dirty rice and corn maque choux – ba­si­cally ul­tra-rich creamed corn. Flaw­less.

Another table­mate or­dered, for rea­sons I don’t un­der­stand, a burger with a floury-tasting crab and corn chow­der that he loved but I found far in­fe­rior to the res­tau­rant’s gumbo. A fourth friend got an or­di­nary oys­ter po’ boy. The only se­ri­ous yawner at the ta­ble was a gi­gan­tic wedge of let­tuce with blue cheese dress­ing, ba­con, cu­cum­bers and so forth. We shared a dessert of South­ern Com­fort pe­can pie with Chan­tilly cream. Skip the let­tuce and or­der it.

The menu here is di­verse, with quite a few steaks and fried shell­fish and seafood, as well as the clas­sics like my etouf­fee. The jam­bal­aya, which I have not tried, seems to get es­pe­cially high marks from many din­ers. Ser­vice is great and the res­tau­rant was crowded. I rec­om­mend you get a reser­va­tion.

Cliff Bostock is a former psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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