It all started very well at the attractive and expansive bar just inside the entrance with a first-rate dry gin martini, made just with their well-selected well pours, that was a relative pittance at $6.50. The receipt was humorously, and appropriately, tucked into a Mr. Boston’s cocktail guide. We then walked to the table, passing through much of the smart and inviting modern setting softened by some comfortable rustic-themed elements like the different Gulf oysters waiting in wire-meshed bags at the counter of the oyster station set near the middle of the restaurants. High ceilings provide for large, tall windows adding to a lightness along with the light-hued furniture, tabletops, wall treatments, and covered lights hanging down.
We started with a series of four appetizers that all worked out very well, vibrant and maybe a little lighter than you might expect from a Louisiana-bred concept, none of which last long on the table. The roasted oysters with bits of shrimp, blue crab, and then brown butter breadcrumbs were excellent, with the toppings working well with the moist, milky oysters. Maybe even more pleasurable were the chicken liver mousse served with a fig jam and thin slices of quality toasted bread. Mild yet flavorful, I believe I liked it as much as the Tuscan version served nearby by at Giacomo’s. The crispy Boudin Balls looked a lot like hush puppies but tasted far better. The Dan Dan Shrimp – named after a friend and former co-worker of executive chef, not referencing the Szechuan noodles – were served with widely shaved carrots that added a little texture and sweetness to the excellent, fresh shrimp that were properly sautéed.
For the entrée, I fretted over three items before settling on their version of shrimp and crab etouffee that was served over house-made pasta, "à la Harry,” likely a nod to the pasta dish created at the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice. The smaller-sized medium shrimp that was studded with occasional pieces of crab were delicious and I enjoyed the dish, overall, but the pasta was overly soft to my palate, very soft and detracted from the rest of the preparation. It was overcooked, at the least. And, traditional rice would have been better. Too many non-Italian restaurants make pasta in house that is rarely that good, in my opinion. I might be a little tougher than usual having spent nearly a week this summer in Parma, the heart of fresh pasta country in Italy.
My friends’ entrées were better, and terrific: a hanger steak from the lunch menu, slices of duck breast with some dirty rice not that clearly described as “Duck Duck Rice / sweet potato, celery root, dirty rice,” and a sautéed Gulf black drum with some crab and brown butter. Everything was complemented with good wines at a good restaurant prices, a pleasant Gruner Veltliner by the glass for under $10, a bottle of minerally, nicely acidic yet fruit-laden Sancerre from Joseph Mellot La Chatellenie for $50, a plumpish but balanced white Burgundy that worked out very well with the shrimp, and a 2008 St. Emilion by the glass for only $12 or $13 that had nicely mellowed a bit but featured some nice fruit flavors. One of the group, a big Sazerac fan, was so enamored with their versions, both traditional and one made with Cognac, that he stuck with them through the meal. Service was friendly, solicitous, prompt and knowledgeable. Just a few weeks old, the restaurant seemed to be operating on all cylinders. It was a very enjoyable dining experience for us, highlighted by very good food. It’s one of the best new restaurants I have been to this year.
3737 Buffalo Speedway (at Richmond), 77098, (832) 491-1717