Finally got to Roux tonight. It's in a refurbished laundry only a couple blocks down from Di Prima Dolci with a large monochrome sign up top and broad and tall windows pouring light onto the street along the entire block.
The east corner of the building is actually a deli, "Bon Temps", open for lunch and into early evening. They serve more Cajun items like red beans & rice, gumbo, po boys of fried oysters, shrimp, soft-shelled crab, etc, plus more typical deli sandwiches. They also serve side items such as macaroni salad, potato salad, sweet potato & pecan salad, and olive relish. Most items range from $2 to $6 with choice of large or small servings. Po boys and other sandwiches are generally $7 or so with soft-shelled crab running $13. After my meal at the restaurant, I'm pretty interested to try this place.
The restaurant itself has a very inviting and comforting, yet classy decor. Dark wood and molding stands out against a light neutral wall and ceiling. Mirrored columns extend up from the tall booths, each one lit by stained-glass Tiffany-style lamps. A long padded bench goes down one side of the main dining room.
We got there when it opened, and it was quite chilly until about when we left. I think they might need to kick in the heat an hour before service starts. But otherwise we really enjoyed the environment. The other spaces, the smaller rooms near the kitchen, are more open and a little more casual, I'd say. They do not, it appeared, have a bar overlooking the kitchen.
The menu is split into five sections: oysters, soups & salads, bon temps, sides & additions, and dinner.
Three options for oysters: half shell, grilled, or gratinee. First two options were $9 for each half dozen, the last, which came with crawfish tail, cream, and cognac, was $10 for a half dozen.
Salads were generally boring, typical NW salads, except the "croque monsieur" with spinach, ham hock, gruyere, and mustard vinaigrette. I'd like to try that some time.
We had a hard time choosing which "bon temps". I find soft-shelled crab disgusting, though I've tried it on too many occasions, so I got to veto that one. We ended up ordering three: crawfish pie ($8), house-made sausages ($8), and pumpkin fritters ($7).
The crawfish pie came as an individual, deep pot-pie with color bits sticking up out of its creamy filling. The flavor was a bit dominated by bell pepper, something my wife didn't appreciate, but overall it was really good. The crawfish pieces were tender and without any off-flavor. Plentiful, too. A latent spiciness built up over time, but it wasn't overwhelming. It wasn't too much for my capsicum-averse wife. The crust was really nice -- crisp, light, and rich. No chemically aftertaste that's all too common in such things.
The sausage platter had three small sausages (think slightly larger than American breakfast sausages): andouille, chaurice, and duck. A variety of pickles, including cornichons, beets, okra, and green tomato, accompanied the sausages along with a whole grain and Dijon mustard. Each sausage had a nice texture, packed tightly and not too finely ground. Each was also rich and juicy. The chaurice was probably my favorite, which shouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows my love for chorizo. It was a bit too spicy for my wife, but she liked the complex flavor as well. The andouille and duck were both meaty with a "darker" flavor. The andouille had a light smoke flavor. These last two were nicely balanced by all the pickles and mustards, having that deep quality of most pates.
The pumpkin fritters were my wife's favorite. Five or six crisped quenelles surrounded a garnish of fennel fronds and a fennel jam. The exterior of each fritter was crisp, but the interior was rather gooey and smooth, tasting of little more than pureed pumpkin. I think I would have preferred a little lightness, but my wife enjoyed the straightforward pumpkiness. While fine by themselves, the fennel jam was terrific, both sweet and tangy with a distinct anise smell and taste. It balanced the fritters perfectly and made them move beyond typical.
My only real problem with any of the three was a lack of salt. The sausages and the fritters each had something else that could arguably wake up the palate, but I think each of these (unlike the entrees) could have used just a little salt.
It says a lot about our food culture, I think, that all the sides and additions were vegetables. Most of the mains come with starches, but few veggies. We're still a meat and potatoes country. I would have ordered some veggies except that they were rather expensive, it seemed, $5 or $6 for orders of creamed brussell sprouts, glazed carrots, braised mustard greens, etc. I would be interested to see if they'd substitute a vegetable for a starch.
My wife ordered the molasses brined pork chop ($20, why does she insist on meat when she doesn't like meat -- more on that later) and I ordered the creole cassoulet ($17). Note the prices are pretty much all under $20. The only exceptions among the nine entrees were the pork chop above and the $25 grilled 14 oz NY Strip. (Hardly a bad value for nearly a pound of steak with blackened beurre compose and dirty rice.) I almost chose the pan roasted rabbit with cornbread andouille stuffing and mustard jus ($17.50) and my wife almost got the crawfish stuffed trout with mustard greens and lemon ($17). The smoked beef short ribs with roasted garlic potatoes ($19) also sounded like my kind of meal.
The reason my wife ordered the pork was because it came with one of her absolute favorites: polenta. Well, actually, a goat cheese grits cake. Same difference. The triangle of grits had a creamy interior and lightly crusted exterior and just a hint of cheesiness. The pork chop, probably 12 ozs, was cooked perfectly. The thick, tender, juicy cut was grilled with a nice cross-hatch and topped with sherried figs. The figs weren't overly alcoholic or mushy. They tasted good with both the pork and the grits. A light jus sat underneath the chop.
My cassoulet was the best I've had in a while, perhaps the best I've had in Portland. A crispy-skin duck leg sat atop a few pieces of dark green brocollini and the cassoulet. The meat was succulent and tender, the skin nicely seasoned. (A bit too salty for my wife.) Really tasty. The cassoulet was topped with, what appeared to be, crumbled cornbread that had been toasted until slightly crunchy. This contrasted the creamy cassoulet, tender white beans in their viscous jus along with large hunks of andouille.
We finished with two desserts: the fried banana dumplings ($6) and the beignets ($5.5).
Pureed banana in crescent shaped dumplings were served with a ramekin of butterscotch and a quenelle of creme fraiche. I thought the banana to dumpling ratio was a little low, but my wife thought it was right. The banana flavor did come through, but I would have liked it to clearly dominate the cinnamon-sugar dusted dumplings and stand up to the fabulous butterscotch. The creme fraiche, btw, had a bit of citrus that brightened it. A simple, but very good dessert.
My beignets were a little boring for my wife. Two powder sugared pillows light and freshly fried were accompained by a coffee cup with several small scoops of a chicory coffee ice cream. A nice play on the classic NOLA breakfast/snack. I really liked it though and expected nothing more from it.
We also had purchased a lavender lemonade that smelled of lavendar, but tasted of barely more than lemonade. Good though. ($2.50).
They also brought us two little gratis cordials flavored with blood orange and cranberry with seasonal spices between our meal and desserts. My wife finished both since such things taste of cough syrup to me. But she enjoyed them.
A very enjoyable meal overall. Any complaints I had were relatively minor. Prices are very fair. Our total meal with 3 apps, two entrees, a drink, and two desserts was $75 on the nose. The environment is pleasant.
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