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Fat Monday

In one of the choicest meal deals in town, the new Crescent City Cafe offers two fried shrimp platters for $10.95 on Monday nights. And what fried shrimp they are! Ethereally battered, with a layer of hot air between the breading and the shrimp (how do they do that?), butterflied so that, after a dunking in hot oil, the meat curls up on either side of the tail to resemble Salvador Dali's mustache, these respectably sized crustaceans come eight or so to a platter with a mess of skin-on French fries. Even the purist in me, who prefers my French fries unadorned (unless salt and ketchup qualify as adornment), took no offense at the restraint with which these fries had been goosed with a shower of Cajun seasoning. With a couple of appetizers -- red beans and rice into which two halves of a grilled andouille sausage had been jauntily stuck so that the whole affair had the profile of a cow's head, plus a campy sounding, spicy Gumbo Ya-Ya that was more tomato-based than gumbo-like, but earned points for the massive amount of chicken floating in it -- two of us had more food than we could eat. Through the machinations of our amicable-but-not-overly-exuberant waiter, who could spout film trivia with the best of them, we even somehow got a free serving of -- and I quote from the menu, which says it all -- "roasty, garlicky, lumpy mashed potatoes."

Crescent City Cafe is the recent re-do of the location that for years housed Don's Seafood restaurant and, most recently, Lagniappe. Owner Richard Tannenbaum was involved with the Atchafalaya River Cafes before they were purchased by Ninfa's. In his new restaurant, he's reintroduced and updated the old Atchafalaya menu. And as the name implies, he's added a few more outright New Orleans-y touches, both in the menu and in the restaurant's overall gestalt. The color scheme of yellow and purple, for instance, screams Mardi Gras, and all the waitstaff are decked in Mardi Gras beads. A raucous, parti-colored mural in the bar depicts a Mardi Gras scene. Ebullient southern Louisiana music is broadcast nonstop over the PA system.

In one of its best tips of the hat to the Big Easy, Crescent City serves a variation on a dessert made famous in that town: bread pudding. The Crescent City version is called Incredible Peach Bread Pudding, and it's laced heavily with canned cling peaches, cut square from the pan and then drowned in bourbon sauce. During a visit a couple of weeks ago, I was upset to learn that they were out of the wicked sounding treat. But a waiter managed to save the day in the end: as I was exiting the restaurant, he came bounding up with a care package containing one more serving of the dessert that some efficient kitchen staffer had located. Maybe my good luck was a heavenly reward for some Lenten-period temperance I'd observed. As I tucked the package under my arm, looking forward to my late night treat, I shared a wink with the jester in the bar's Mardi Gras mural. -- Kelley Blewster

Crescent City Cafe, 3009 Post Oak Boulevard, 621-5900.

Crescent City Cafe:
shrimp platter (Monday nights), $10.95 for two
peach bread pudding $3.95

 
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