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Monday, July 22, 2013

Bite and Booze Awards: Restaurant Week Baton Rouge

Local Products List and Pork Rinds at Beausoleil
Restaurant Week Baton Rouge has come and gone, but the memories remain for those of us who dined out last week.  I took the liberty of compiling a rundown of the RW highlights. Take a look, and let me know what you think by commenting below or posting on Twitter or Facebook! These picks are my opinion alone and I'd love to hear what you think.

Best deals:

$15 - Chelsea's Cafe - Cheese fries, the stellar chicken mojo poboy with fries, and French silk cake for $15... yeah, that's a good deal despite it all being on the normal menu.

$20 - The Londoner - Just a slight step up from Chelsea's, at the Londoner you could get a grilled chicken, strawberry, and walnut salad, a steak and ale pie, and finish it with their amazing sticky toffee bread pudding for nothing but a Jackson.

$25 - Beausoleil - Starting off a meal with a dish called "General Tso's Cheeks" always gets the imagination running. Following that up with a Creole cane syrup grilled pork chop and ending with a fresh fruit cobbler with toasted pecan crust for only a hundred quarters... that's just plain silly good.

Le Creole's Lobster Wontons
$30 - Juban's - The stuffed crab cake with avocado aioli showed what new Executive Chef Joey Daigle is capable of, and that only got me through the appetizer. As one of Baton Rouge's most historic fine dining restaurant, a three course menu like this is something that should be unheard of... though they actually offer a $29.99 prefix all the time! Moving on to a medium-rare steak frites and a cinnamon raisin bread pudding, it's hard to argue about the Restaurant Week deal at Juban's.

$35 - Le Creole - I began my meal with the lobster wontons. Lobster knuckle and claw meat and truffle cream filled crispy fried wontons accompanied with pepper jelly. They were delightful. Next came the gulf red grouper topped with crab meat sitting on a bed of Napa cabbage in a ginger-citrus sauce. I finished the meal with flaming bananas foster. I won.

Best off menu dishes:

Appetizer - Allow me to rant here: While a Restaurant Week is amazing and I'm extremely happy that Baton Rouge has one, it does also seem that perhaps part of the spirit is not understood. I could find ZERO restaurants that went off of their ordinary menu for the first course of their restaurant week menu. They recycled their appetizers, soups, and salads. They showed a lack of creativity, imagination, and desire to use the week to showcase their chef or something new rather than let people just order something that would be on the menu anyway. Next Restaurant Week, I encourage all restaurants and their chefs to allow their passion to shine and create some restaurant week specials as small plates and first courses. Fortunately, there were a few second and third courses that went off-menu.

Entree - Bin 77: Stuffed Mississippi Quail - As if the bird wouldn't be enough for the entree in a $25 three course menu, the folks at Bin 77 rounded the dish out with foie gras, oyster ragu, three potato pave, and red-eye gravy. What a dish! And it can't be found on their regular dinner menu!

Dessert - Blend: Warm Chocolate Torte - Complete with salted caramel gelato and roasted peanuts, this dessert cried out to be eaten! While there is a chocolate torte on Blend's dessert menu, it doesn't come with salted caramel gelato and roasted peanuts, so if you didn't get to try this version, you may have missed out!

Special Mentions:

Most Creative Menu - Nino's Italian: Forget dessert... you can order that on your own. Nino's bucked the "three courses = appetizer, entree, dessert" mentality and decided instead to offer a slew of incredible appetizers like mussels or gnocchi followed by a soup or salad and then an amazing entree including their homemade grilled vegetable and goat cheese cannelloni!

The filet at Doe's, an option I could have had for Restaurant Week
Sad I Missed It - Doe's Eat Place: They had a pound-and-a-half T-bone on their Restaurant Week menu
and I missed it. That steak costs over $35 by itself, but they served it with three tamales, fries, biscuits, and then eclair cake. While I can go back to Doe's and eat tamales, prime steak, and eclair cake any time, I'm still sad I missed this deal.

Welcome to the Show - Le Bon Temps: Although they just recently opened, Le Bon Temps Bar & Grill wasted no time joining in on Restaurant Week Baton Rouge. That's what I like to see from a new restaurant! And for $20, their menu that featured combinations like duck and andouille egg rolls, a cochon de lait platter, and lemon icebox pie could not have steered anybody wrong!

Corporate Love - Fleming's: While I'm not a promoter of chain or corporate restaurants, there were several that participated in Restaurant Week and I'm sure there were many happy diners. The menu at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, for example, should not have been overlooked. Listed as four courses on their menu, you could start with a lobster bisque, follow that up with a petite filet, include some Fleming's potatoes, and wrap it all up with a huge slice of carrot cake. Whether they are corporate or not, their Chef is a Louisiana boy, and it is hard to beat a meal like that for $35!