Bite and Booze by Jay D. Ducote

Monday, July 11, 2011

BR Foodies experience Le Creole

On a mission for our BR Foodies group to experience a new restaurant all at the same time, I arranged a trip for the group to dine at Le Creole on Highland Road.  Nobody had been before so other than some word of mouth, none of us knew what to expect.  

Le Creole is reasonably new to the Baton Rouge fine dining scene.  It is the latest creation of seafood lover, caterer, and restaurateur Wayne Stabiler.  His other restaurants include both Little Village locations and the City Cafe.  Wanting to get back to his Louisiana seafood distribution roots, he opened up Le Creole.  Chef Ryan Andre, who had previously be on board at Commander's Palace in New Orleans, took the reigns of the kitchen of the while Clark T. Ellis assumed the General Manager position.  

Upon arrival at Le Creole our group gathered in the bar with some cocktails while we caught up and chatted.  Clark greeted us and offered a little tour of the kitchen where we could meet Chef Andre.  The kitchen bustled with activity of chefs at their stations. 
GM Clark T. Ellis gives the BR Foodies a tour of the kitchen (left); Chef Ryan Andre poses for a picture at Le Creole (right)

My evening began with a Maker's 46 Old Fashioned.  The bartender muddled a maraschino cherry and a wedge of orange before adding the bitters, simple syrup, and bourbon.  The beverage got my taste buds kick-started as I prepared myself for a tasty meal.  I don't drink too many Old Fashioneds, but this this one could get me to change that.  I thoroughly enjoyed the beverage.  I had a whiskey sour later in the meal that did not impress me nearly as much.  I wished I had ordered a second Old Fashioned!  Before I got started eating, I first had to do some tweeting and posting which Kelly Spell happened to capture on camera!  Good times with the BR Foodies gang!

Le Creole started us out with their fresh-baked bread and some lemon herb butter from Plaquemines Parish.  The bread had a thick crust with a soft center and the butter had a tremendous flavor.  Following the bread came a cochon de lait bruschetta for each of us.  As a sampling portion of the their cochon de lait flatbread, the bruschetta featured tender pulled pork with goat cheese and provolone melted on top.  While I actually liked the flatbread version better, the pork and goat cheese combination stood out as a delicious combination.  The fork-tender pig mixed beautifully with the creamy cheese.  I could have eaten nothing other than that and been happy.  Come to think of it, I need to make a cochon de lait style pulled pork and goat cheese sandwich!

I continued my meal with tastes of Le Creole's boudin spring rolls with a raspberry sauce and a delightful watermelon, spinach and goat cheese salad.  The salad impressed me with its refreshing nature while still offering some great flavor combinations.  The sweetness of the watermelon played off of the goat cheese tang as the two danced in my mouth.  After the salad I opted for the turtle soup with sherry.  It was not the most memorable turtle soup I've had but it still satisfied my craving for more booze in food!

The true highlight on the night came in the form of the above pictured crab cake.  Chef Andre took jumbo lump crab meat and formed cakes that were held together by just a small amount of spicy mayo.  The cakes were then broiled in a hot oven instead of fried.  Served with a spicy remoulade sauce, the crab cake exploded with flavor.  Sweet crab and spicy sauce filled every bite and the texture of the lump meat with crispiness and creaminess gave a great mouth feel to each additional taste after taste.

My entree, pictured at the top of this post, featured a whole deep fried mangrove snapper served with sauteed squash, zucchini and red onion.  The whole fish presented an awe-inspiring spectacle of a dish.  Our wonderful server Erica placed it in front of me and I actually wanted to photograph the fish slightly more than I wanted to eat it.  Perhaps that is because I started to get full a course or two before the main entree, but still, it looked pretty amazing.  Once I dug into the fish and veggies I became just slightly underwhelmed.  As great as the fish looked, the flavor didn't quite deliver upon the visual expectations.  I enjoyed picking the fried flesh off the bones, but the taste failed to blow me away like some of the appetizers did.  The vegetables added nothing special to the dish and really forced the snapper to attempt to stand on its own.

We wrapped up our meal by passing around a trio of desserts.  We had a banana cake, a bread pudding and my personal favorite, a homemade cookie with ice cream.  The vanilla bean ice cream melted rapidly over a oven-hot chocolate chip cookie in an individual cast iron skillet.  Simply put, this dessert capped the meal right back up at the top of the delicious scale.

Overall I had a wonderful meal and a great experience at Le Creole.  Clark, the General Manager, and his staff took great care of us all evening long.  Erica, our waitress, delivered amazing service and it seemed like everyone else in the restaurant received plenty of attention as well.  The food belonged among Baton Rouge's upscale dining elite.  While my entree didn't amaze me, the snapper still tasted quite good, and rest of the courses certainly made the entire experience into a memorable meal.  On the way out of the dimly lit and intimate dining area I realized that the music I had been hearing all evening was coming from a live pianist.  Yet another fun touch to make me want to go back for more from Le Creole!

Thanks to Kelly Spell of the BR Foodies for most of the pictures from a great evening!

Le Creolé on Urbanspoon

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