I first acquired a love for food when I went to a conference in New Orleans. Although a scholarship covered most costs, my husband and I went into serious debt by dining out in the Big Easy.
When we returned home, our favourite chain restaurants did not seem to taste the same. We were no longer satisfied with the typical burger joints. Perhaps this was an expensive lesson, but I was glad to learn it. I always feel a touch of nostalgia when I sample Creole cuisine, remembering my first experience with gastronomy.
So it was in great anticipation that I met a friend of mine at Louisiana Purchase, close to the downtown core. I was excited to sample some traditional Cajun cooking above the 49th parallel. Loud Creole music welcomed us as we stepped into the warm atmosphere on a particularly cold spring night.
Diners were spread across two levels, and I enjoyed my spot next to the wrought-iron railing above. It was reminiscent of the French Quarter-style balconies found just off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. A collection of jazz legend posters dotted the brick interior, and the assortment of jovial patrons partaking in food and spirits added to the Mardi Gras atmosphere.
The menu featured primarily seafood, although land lovers could try the “cotton-pickin’ chicken” or the tournedos ya-ya. Fortunately, neither of us suffered from crustacean aversion and had many more possibilities to choose from.
We did decide to start with a fin-less appetizer: the alligator kebab ($7.95). Having eaten alligator numerous times in Louisiana, I reassured my friend that it was worth trying. Besides, I couldn’t help but be taken in by the whole “eat or be eaten” Cajun mentality. Entrées were harder to decide, but the herb-encrusted red snapper daily special ($17.95) had caught my eye when I walked in.
I made a mental note to try the satisfaction plate ($12.95) next time—a combination of the favourites that the restaurant had to offer. My dining companion decided on the blackened catfish ($16.95). We are both avid coffee drinkers and decided not to wait for dessert, but start our meal off with that black gold ($1.95 each).
Shortly into our conversation, the alligator kebab arrived. One skewer of meat arrived nestled on a bed of mango and black bean salsa. Unlike most other unusual meats, alligator does not taste like chicken but instead has a vaguely familiar, pork-like flavour and texture.
The tender meat was encased in a crisp coating that left a fiery aftertaste in my mouth. The salsa’s sweetness completed the dish, balancing out the piquant overtones. I don’t know the market price of alligator, but I was disappointed at the single alligator kebab. This appetizer was definitely not made for sharing. However, portion sizes for our entrées were quite substantial and, judging by the desserts arriving at other patron’s tables, we would need room for later.
My red snapper was mellow, doused with a contrasting zesty aioli sauce to complement the fish. The aioli sauce—a creamy concoction of garlic, peppers and red onion—definitely defined this entrée, while a medley of rice and roasted vegetables completed the meal.
My friend’s rich catfish was enhanced by its blackening. I am usually leery of ordering fish blackened because I have often received a dried-out, overwhelmed filet. My friend’s entrée was the perfect example of this technique used properly. Her filet was completed with a Creole sauce. Though tomato-based, it was equally as spicy as mine. We were pleased with the constant water (and coffee) refills that arrived at our table.
Neither of us was in a rush to go home, so we lingered over dessert. The server listed off the options including bread pudding with rum sauce, flourless chocolate cake, and a lemon cornmeal tart. The one I found most appealing was the Mississippi mud pie ($5.75) while my friend decided on the custard with berries ($5.75).
Our wait seemed much longer for our desserts than for our meals, but perhaps that is because we were anticipating the grand finale. The dishes were well worth the wait: two beautifully-presented desserts arrived at our table ornamented in whipped cream, light wafers and cape goose berries. My companion’s dessert was a creamy, light custard topped with juicy strawberries and finished with a balsamic vinaigrette.
However, the Mississippi mud pie stole the show. The huge wedge of pure delight contained a dark-chocolate crust, chocolate cream cheese layer and two inches of chocolate mousse topping. I certainly could not finish the monstrous piece, and passed it along the table for my friend to sample. If the alligator kebab was made for one, this dessert could have easily fed two or three.
Completely stuffed, we waddled over to the debit machine and paid our $60 bill before tax and tip. Painfully aware of the waist of my jeans, I remembered New Orleans’ other nickname: Fat City. They claim it originates from Fat Tuesday, the literal translation of Mardi Gras. After my time in Louisiana, I had my own suspicions of the origin of the nickname. If I came to Louisiana Purchase anywhere near as often as I’d like, I’d be ecstatic and need a whole new wardrobe. And how bad would that be? V
Mon – Fri to 10 pm, Sat to 11 pm,
Sun to 9:30 pm
10320 – 111 Street