Sunday, May 12, 2013

No Reservations*

“Egad!” I exclaimed to Chuck. “Do you know what day this is?” In response to his quizzical look, I explained, “It’s Mother’s Day. It’s the busiest day of the restaurant year.”

Why is this important? Because our plan was to mosey on up the Interstate a piece and have a leisurely lunch at Chef Roy’s Frog City Café in Rayne, LA—one of our all-time favorite restaurants any time, any where.

So we placed a quick call to see if we were too late to get lunch reservations. “We’re not taking reservations today,” responded the friendly voice on the phone. Did we take a chance and “wing” it? Yes, we did.

We arrived at just about noon to find the parking lot full of cars.
Lots and lots of cars.
So many cars that we finally parked at the Day’s Inn next door. After asking permission, of course.
So we were surprised when we were immediately seated in the main dining room. And it wasn’t too soon thereafter that co-owner Robert Credeur (with Chef Benoit Morel) approached our table while making his way through the dining room. He is a man born to the hospitality business. It has been over a year since we last dined here, but he still remembered us and stopped for a fairly extended chat.

Over the course of our conversation we learned: that the line began forming at 9:30 a.m. for the 11:00 a.m. opening; that by 11:00 there were about 250 diners in line; that on Mother’s Day 2012 they served over 500 people between 11:00 and 2:00 p.m.; that they were using both the main dining room (in which we were seated) and the back room normally used for banquets and receptions to handle the crowd; and that he and his wife are expecting the birth of their first son. Oh, and he is considering purchasing a small RV for weekend use.

It has become tradition on Mother’s day to gather the entire staff—and it truly is “all hands on deck” on Mother’s Day—in the large entry lobby. There “Coach Robert” gives a pep talk, explains the menu, and serves everyone a pre-opening Mimosa.
In addition to dispensing with reservations, Chef Roy’s was serving an abbreviated version of the dinner menu but one that included some of the more popular items. These included: Shrimp Morel—jumbo grilled shrimp served over pasta in a creamy crabmeat sauce; Lump Crabmeat Sautee—lump crabmeat sautéed in lemon butter; Shrimp Fettuccine—sautéed shrimp simmered in fettuccine sauce then tossed with steamed pasta; Crawfish Enchilada—grilled tortillas stuffed with crawfish tails simmered with queso sauce and topped with crawfish sauce.

And again, how good is Robert? During our conversation he turns to me and says, “You really like the Crawfish Napoleon. It’s a good thing it’s on the menu.” And this rememberance after our not having been here for a year!

We both decided to begin with one of the four “starter” choices. For me, it was a cup of shrimp gumbo.
“Egad!” I exclaimed for the second time that day. This was no cup. This was a bowl. And the gumbo was made with a deep brown roux, just enough pepper, scallions, rice, and a large number of small to medium shrimp. My test for the perfectly cooked shrimp is to make a comparison to a natural casing hot dog. (Stay with me here.) You initially encounter some tooth resistance, and then with a snap, you work through to the tender and juicy “meat.” These shrimp were just like that.

For Chuck it was the crab and corn soup. Corn and crab are one of the world’s most perfect food combinations—especially when combined with a small amount of red bell pepper and scallions and served in a cheesy cream base.

Salads—along with a basket of fresh warm rolls—came with each of our entrées, but we figure that you know what salad looks like. Well, you probably know what rolls look like, too.

Before describing each of our entrées, I need to mention that neither of us is fond of eggplant. In my case, it was one of those unfortunate college dining room experiences. In Chuck’s case—well, I really don’t know why. But, for some unexplainable reason, we view eggplant differently when in Louisiana.

Chuck’s entrée choice was the Crab White Lake—fried slices of eggplant topped with a crab cake/crab stuffing and then covered with crab boutte sauce. I can’t find any information on boutte, but this was a creamy sauce that I suspect (from the faint sweet undertones) contained some white wine in addition to Cajun/Creole seasoning and a good amount of crab.
The two egg plant slices had been fried to a crisp crust, but without a mushy interior. And the large crab cake/stuffing was almost like gilding the lily. This was a most delicious, rich, and filling dish.

While I always think that I should try something new when dining at Chef Roy’s, I always go back to the Crawfish Napoleon. This is two stacked slices of fried eggplant with crawfish tails between them and then covered with a crawfish cheese sauce containing a copious amount of crawfish tails.
The secret ingredient in the sauce is curry. Just enough that you know it is there, but not so much to be overpowering.

With my entrée I had the choice of either fries or twice baked potato. I selected the latter but did take it home with me to have with breakfast tomorrow.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer kudos to our server Pam. On such a busy day—and believe me it was busy until we left at about 1:45 p.m.—she never lost her smile or her pleasant demeanor.

Chef Roy’s remains a favorite. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is comfortable. This is fine dining in a non-frou frou atmosphere. It is 5.0 Addie eats.

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

* The title of a program on the Travel Channel starring Anthony Bourdain.

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