The Gumbo Pot

Just part of the menu...

A few weeks ago, my artist friend, Tanya Bjork, and I paid a visit to the Farmers Market at The Grove.  We decided to have lunch at one of the many eateries there.  Since we had been talking on and off for a while now about how long overdue we were for a trip to NOLA and how much we missed The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter, The Gumbo Pot called to us.

Located in a back corner of the Market, The Gumbo Pot boasts a menu featuring Creole and Cajun specialties like gumbo (of course), jambalaya and red beans & rice.  There’s blackened catfish, po’boys, muffelatas and even alligator!

Muffelata

Cornbread Muffin

I opted to get a muffelata and a side of the cornbread.  The Gumbo Shop’s version of this sandwich consists of a thick sesame crusted bread, ham, salami, some other meat that I forgot the name of, provolone and an olive tapenade.  The bread was a little dry and the olive tapenade was quite strong and a little salty.  The bread to filling ratio was leaning towards a little too much bread.  While the flavors were good, it wasn’t quite up to what I had when I was in the French Quarter.  The cornbread was good though – moist and speckled with bits of pepper for a little bit of kick though for my tolerance, there wasn’t much heat.

Tanya went with a blackened catfish sandwich.  It was massive.  She decided to take the filling from one half and double up the other half so she wouldn’t fill up too much on the bread.  I didn’t get a taste but she seemed to like it. Looking around at other customers, I could hear chatter about how good the gumbo and jambalaya were.  Those, along with alligator, will have to be ordered on my next visit…

Beignets

The Gumbo Shop also serves up beignets and cafe au lait.  We couldn’t resist and got an order of those yummy fried dough bits.  The beignets here were a little denser and oiler than what we got at Cafe du Monde but our memories could be a little biased since we were, um, intoxicated when we were there.  We noticed that the chicory coffee was courtesy of cans from Cafe du Monde, though!  Maybe the beignet mix was from there as well…

Over all, I wasn’t blown away by my meal.  I guess the muffaleta isn’t their specialty.  But there were many other things on the menu that I would come back for sure to try them.  I’ve never had alligator and my curiosity is piqued…

The Gumbo Pot gets 3 NOMs for the Catty Critic’s first visit.

The Gumbo Pot
6333 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3190
(323) 933-0358
http://www.thegumbopotla.com
Gumbo Pot on Urbanspoon

Crab Hut

Based on Mmm-yoso’s blog, I gathered up some coworkers and we ventured here for lunch.

I have to say, first off, that the shopping center Crab Hut is located in is one of the worst for parking.  ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE PARKING.  1) Asian drivers (and yes, I can say this cuz I’m an Asian driver myself) 2) not enough spaces 3) ASIAN DRIVERS!!!  Once in a blue moon, you might find a spot but most likely it’ll be small and hard to get in/out of.  Save yourself the headache and just park on the street.

Crab Hut is a Vietnamese-owned place that serves up Cajun-style seafood boils.  Yeah, weird.  But that’s what it is.  There’s a huge neon sign in the window boasting Lousiana crawfish.  When we walked in, we were immediately greeted and seated.  The restaurant was practically empty so this place isn’t a big hit for lunch.  We found out why later on.  The interior was very clean and decorated with a fishing village island-type motif.  Anyways, the waiter took our drink orders and explained the menu and made suggestions since we were newbies. Really helpful and friendly.

The way Crab Hut operates is you order your seafood of choice by the pound with the exception of shrimp which you can order by the 1/2lb. They offer up shrimp, live and frozen crawfish, a shrimp and crawfish mix, whole Blue and Dungeness crab, Snow and King crab legs, clams and mussels.  The crawfish comes with sausage and corn.  Everything else is just the seafood.  There’s a selection of sides that you can add on for extra including Cajun fries, sweet potato fries, garlic bread, corn and rice.  After you select your seafood, you select a “flavor” – Cajun Sensation, Lemon Pepper, Garlic Butter, Full House, Old Bay and Plain (Boil Only).  Then you select your degree of hotness – mild, 1/2 medium, medium, hot, K.O.  If you want to start off with some appetizers, you can order some fresh oysters, fried catfish, shrimp cocktail, crabcakes, fried calamari and other things.

Our party of four all ordered the same thing – 1lb of the shrimp & crawfish mix with the “Full House” seasoning at varying degrees of hotness; I went with medium.  We also got Cajun and sweet potato fries which arrived first.  The sweet potato fries were good and a little overcooked to give it a little extra crunch which was nice, but without burning them.  The Cajun fries were the frozen crinkle-cut kind that you got  in the elemetary school cafeteria only sprinkled with cajun seasoning.  I -LOVED- these.  I dunno why but I just adore crinkle-cut fries.  And waffle-cut as well.  But there’s just something in me that regresses back into a little kid when I have crinkle-cut fries.  The Cajun seasoning brought me back to adulthood, though.  The fries were nicely cooked and not at all soggy like how they were in the cafeteria.  Fabulous!

Our bags of bugs arrived and when I opened mine, I could smell the seasoning…and a little bit of spice.  I started with the crawfish.  I had never had these whole before and got a little weirded out.  They looked a bit…creepy.  But I got over it and quickly figured out a shelling technique.  Rip off the heads, suck out the juices and then shell the tail and nyom nyom nyom.  The only problems with that strategy were 1)the Medium Full House ended up having the sort of spicy kick that hits the back of your throat if you inhale too much.  2) The crawfish tails were tiny so technically, all you got was more like nyom.  The crawfish was nice and juicy if small but the Full House was a very powerful seasoning so I didn’t really taste  the crawfish at all.  Overall, the amount of effort vs. the amout of meat made me decide I’ll stick to crawfish in other forms.  The shrimp, however, was a bit of a different story.  It had the same issue with the Full House flavoring overpowering it but the size of the shrimps were great and they weren’t as hard to shell.  The medium spiciness builds so by the end of lunch, my lips were a little tingly.  I don’t think I’d go any hotter than medium.

IMG_0179Now, I mentioned why this place wasn’t that crowded during lunch.  I’m guessing it’s because eating here is MESSY.  Crab Hut supplies everyone with giant plastic bibs and towelettes and there is a roll of paper towels on each table.   This is not a place for dainty eaters.  As you can see, we went thru quite a bit of paper towels…and crawfish n’ shrimp.  🙂 And we were trying to be neat!

As for cost, this place was not bad.  The shrimp/crawfish mix goes for $8.99/lb.  Given that this was all shrimp n’ crawfish, this was a deal!  You could go to Red Lobster and end up spending $18 on a 2-skewer shrimp entrée or something like that.

I give Crab Hut 3 1/2 NOMs. Not the greatest seafood boil but a great value for what you get and pretty decent taste-wise.  The parking situation gets a big fat hairball, though.

Crab Hut
4646 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 565-1678
http://www.crabhutsd.com
Crab Hut on Urbanspoon

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

It used to be Blue Bayou for lunch during Bat’s Day. But as their food quality went down and their prices went up + the lack of alcohol options for those who wanted to drink, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. So Jazz Kitchen became the next viable option. However, it seems like the quality and service of this restaurant is taking a hit as well.

The lunch menu seems pretty limited, especially when it comes to pescatarian/vegetarian options (read: NONE). And the service…meh. This year, our waitress, though really nice and accommodating, seemed to not quite know what was going on. And somewhere along the chain, there were order mix-ups and mistakes. And really, it shouldn’t take over 3 hrs to do lunch, even with a group of 12 people and when some of those people arrive a little late.  Also, they squished our party of 12 at a table that was really meant for 8-10.

The food is okay and the prices not horribly gouging given we were on Disney property ($10-14 for a lunch entreé). You’d probably spend about the same for food in the park at one of their places. And Blue Bayou would definitely cost a lot more…

Our resident pescatarian (the talented Miss Tanya Bjork) had a special-order catfish po-boy with avocado mayo and I decided to jump on the bandwagon as nothing on the menu was really calling to me. This consisted of some chunks of breaded n’ fried catfish in a sandwich roll. The fish itself was nice – not oily, not fishy-tasting and still moist. But it seemed…wimpy. Maybe it was the amount of catfish…or lack there of? Shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and pickles were served on the side in a bowl. I ordered fries as my side and they were cold n’ limp. Some of them were coated in a yummy Creole seasoning while others were left out of the spice party. My friend ordered steamed veggies (green beans and carrots, completely unseasoned) but ended up with the jalapeno and bacon potato salad. That quickly got transferred to my place. It was not all that great of a potato salad. Very heavy on the mayo, absolutely no kick and while I’m sure I saw pieces of bacon, I couldn’t taste them. The steamed veggies (2 bowls worth for each of us even though I hadn’t ordered any) came out after everyone had pretty much finished their meals.

They still have the best mojitos, in my opinion, though. And mmmm…banana foster done the right way.  Really, the only reason why you’d come here to eat is because you want to drink and you want a good dessert.

They seem to do better with smaller groups or when it’s not prime restaurant hours. Perhaps next year, instead of doing a lunch thing at 1pm like usual, I’ll do a happy hour/early dinner thing around 4:30pm.  That way, the dinner menu is accessible.  There seems to be more appealing entreés and variety on that one.  I think the times that I’ve gone that I have really enjoyed my food was the evenings.  Only downside is that we’ll be spending more money on food.

I have heard that Blue Bayou is in the process of acquiring a liquor license.  If that’s the case, it may be worth going back just to see.  Though their prices are still a lot higher than Jazz Kitchen…

P.S. I also tried the jalapeño cream(?) cheese filled pretzels in the park and they weren’t bad but there was a strange under-taste to it that bugged me. But there was a definite jalapeño kick, unlike the sad potato salad at Jazz Kitchen.

I give Jazz Kitchen 3 NOMs.  This particular experience warranted 2 NOMs at best, but because I have had good food and service there before, I’m giving them an extra NOM.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
1590 S Disneyland Dr
Disneyland Resort
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 776-5200
http://www.rbjazzkitchen.com
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen on Urbanspoon