Cooking With Jazz, a much-missed Cajun spot in Queens, is taking an encore. A month ago, several years after closing a smaller space up in Whitestone, it reopened on Union Turnpike. Loyal fans say the kitchen hasn’t missed a beat.
Chicken gumbo is thick and spicy, NYJewboy reports, boasting “complexity that cannot be obtained anywhere else in THIS city.” Seafood gumbo is just as good: oysters, shrimp, scallops, fish and more in a piquant, well-rounded broth that stuartlafonda describes as dark and “evil-looking.” Other hits include stuffed fried eggplant (with creamy shrimp sauce), the seafood Big Mamou (scallops, oysters, salmon, and jumbo shrimp in spicy/sweet sauce, tossed over fusilli), and chicken étouffée (Jaleamia “would have been happy eating a bowl of the sauce by itself”). stuartlafonda faults only a tasteless prefab chicken cutlet that turned up blackened with his jambalaya platter.
Hounds note approvingly that chef Steve Van Gelder, a Paul Prudhomme protégé, pays attention to the little things, like warm jalapeño bread and corn muffins, for starters, and the seasoning of the rice (“often ignored and underspiced,” NYJewboy laments). You’ll spot him working the room, catching up with grateful regulars.
Cooking With Jazz [Jamaica Estates]
179-22 Union Turnpike (between 179th and 180th streets), Jamaica Estates, Queens