Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Les Bon Temps

Wade's Take:
It burns from the very first sip. The swamp water flows over my tongue and gallops down my throat, its acrid vapors rising into my nasal cavity. I cough, my eyes water. Mon dieu! This is going to be a spiced night.

I’m sitting in Les Bon Temps, Philly’s latest greatest creole joint, deep in the heart of the gayborhood. There I was, waiting for my dining companions, watching over the restaurant from the second floor balcony and feeling mighty third person omniscient gazing at all angles with Les Bon Temps countless mirrors. I could see so well, in fact, that I witnessed the bartender dump a too-hefty-helping of Tabasco in my drink.

So there I sat, waiting, with a large swamp water drink in front of me. What made it so potent? Swamp water is Les Bon Temp’s take on a dirty martini, I guess… vodka, Tabasco, Hendricks gin, olive juice and a blackened shrimp as a floater. It was too much for meak ol’ me.
Despite this bad taste in my mouth (bad pun intended) I was spectacularly happy with the rest of the meal.

My starter was the crawfish spring rolls, served with marinated carrots and a ginger soy sauce. Sacre bleu! Crunchy and well textured with heaps of tasty crawfish meat… I was satisfied.
Dave’s eggplant beignets were the perfect symbiosis of sweetness and sass. The breading was fired with Tabasco, and powdered sugar was generously dumped on its top.

My entrée was a potpourri of many things Cajun. I had blackened Duck, fried oysters, and pulled pork shoulder overtop jambalaya. The pork shoulder as perfectly tender and richly vinegared. The duck surprisingly wasn’t oily and had incredibly crisp skin, but was a tad dry without its neighbor, a bacon reduction sauce. The fried oyster was coated in cornmeal, and bland, but balanced the diversely flavored jambalaya it rested atop.

People-watching was superb. We had a great time simply viewing the many guests as they entered and went to a private party on the third floor. What’s even better is that the numerous mirrors made it so we could all be voyeurs without even turning our heads (I’d also like to note that I 100% called the secret party’s purpose above us. It was a Philly Magazine writer’s going away party, BTW. Dave thought it was a Blood Brothers cast party, and Jess said something about an Aerosoles sales force convention).

I give this hush puppy 3.5 out of 4 fire in the bellies.

Dave's Take:
It was fate. I was listening to NPR the day we went to Les Bon Temps and heard about the Sazerac aka, the official drink of New Orleans. There is plenty of controversy about who invented it and exactly what's in it, but it is basically simple syrup, whiskey/bourbon, herbsaint/absinth and bitters. Hurricane's are for tourists, Sazerac are the deal as as they say. I was excited. I love Creole and Cajun food. Just the idea gets me pumped. Each cuisine is superb at melding bold flavors and ingredients with, if done well, sophestication and exquist techinque.

I loved the decor. Not sure what was there before but from the look it must have been vacant for quite some time because Les Bon Temps restorations huants back to the old days. It adds to the experience as you walk through the door and up the grand staircase to your Creole adventrure. As Wade mentions, he was drinking a crazy martini when we got there. I had a sip and moved to my Sazerac. My appetizer, the Eggplant Beignets were awesome. I love Cafe du Monde late night snacks and these were a twisted and extremely tasty pervesion of those. Think of roasted eggplant dipped in funnel cake, tossed in tabasco and covered in powdered sugar. Although it may sound weird to some, it was freak'n awesome. Savory, sweet, tangy sourness and good to eat. Like a rocket launch for your tounge.

Onto the entree- Crawfish Etouffee. This is my absolute favorite New Orleanian-style dish. The crawfish, the roux, the spices, the techinique, I love it all. I was pumped when I saw it coming over to the table. I am a little concerned when I saw the color of the roux but still waited with anticipation as I took my first bite. hmm, I though to myself as I ate, it's missing. Let me take another try I said to myself. Damn, there it wasn't again. What was missing? Taste. The dish tasted like crawfish, but the sauce tasted like something from a can. It lacked that wonderful complex flavor with spices and the right amount of heat hanging in the background. More like a Betty Crocker crawfish helper microwave meal. My associates had better entrees but I was too distraught to try to steal bites when they weren't looking.

I'm going to go 2.5 out of 4. I need to go back to get another experience and not order the etouffee. Had it not been for my disappointment in this essential New Orleans dish, it would have been a perfect score. Alas- I'm still in search of my perfect etouffee.........and for the Sazerac- certainly try one, but it's pretty sweet, at least here. I'll stick with a Manhattan

Although this is not my best review, I must stress that people should go try the eggplant beignets. At least go for a happy hour and snack on them at the bar.

Jess's Take:
Ode to Les Bon Temps

Yes, this is my first post since November (gulp)
Let’s say that’s because Les Bon Temps is one to remember (not that others weren’t)
Miss Judy’s crispy sea scallops were an absolute delight
The black currant balsamic reduction was not too sweet, just right
I ordered the seafood special with great anticipation
It arrived in a Creole tomato sauce creation
With my first bite I hoped to be brought back to the culinary wonders of New Orleans
I was left a little disappointed, the seafood was great, the sauce was a little weak (I mean, what rhymes with Orleans?)
In true New Orleans fashion we were stuffed by the time the main course was done
No room for dessert – really, none

Ah Les Bon Temps, I’ll be back soon
Despite my sauce disappointment, your character, charm and creativity left me humming a happy little Creole tune

I’ll give you 3 out of 4 stars this time
Maybe you’ll redeem yourself when next I’m in to dine

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