Chef Jeramie Robison Plays Around With Gumbo and More at Zimm's Little Deck

We stopped in at the just-opened Zimm's Little Deck the other night for a tasting session - zoomed right past the place at first and had to reverse course, it being just a left hand turn off the Richmond exit on Highway 59 North.

It's got several things going for it besides a handy location (601 Richmond). The Zimmerman family was out in force and they know restaurants. It's not far at all from Zimm's Martini and Wine Bar or La Colombe d'Or,so if there was ever a kitchen fire they could run back and forth and still deliver the goods.

And they don't have any sort of location curse to overcome because nothing was there before they put up the restaurant, outside patio and petanque court (French for Italian bocce ball).

They also have Jeramie (pronounced Jer-a-mah) Robison, an affable and engaging 27-year-old with 11 years of cooking experience behind him (he started when he was 16 in Louisiana), designing the menu. Robison, now executive chef at La Colombe d'Or, arrived most recently from Tesars in The Woodlands and, before that a three-year stint at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and a tour working under Chef David Burke at Fish Tail in New York City.

Robison has applied some family recipes to the Cajun cuisine. Pickles and homemade chips come with every sandwich and, as it turns out, his dad is the one making the pickles.

For some reason, Robison said, the Crawfish Remoulade ($9) hasn't been moving, but it should, especially if you like your remoulade not too heavy or gluelike. It's served with some crispy bread, and the crawfish was tender, not rubbery as sometimes happens.

The gumbo is excellent. That night ours was made with chicken and sausage, but Robison said he plans to change it up from time to time. "I'll play with it, use rabbit and duck later on," he said.

The Fried Shrimp Po' Boy ($12) isclassic comfort food with a slight spicy kick on the back end. The Roast Beef Po' Boy ($9) has a sweet sauce done with a port wine reduction.

The Casblanca, a slow-roasted and pulled Moroccan Leg of Lamb with Arugula and Harrisa Aioili ($13), offers tender chunks of lamb in a spicy orange sauce and more of that wonderful bread that Zimm's is getting from French Riveria. "It's [the bread] the only thing we don't make ourselves," Robison said.

Our favorite of the evening, well, along with the gumbo and the dessert, was the Petite Lafitte, a sandwich with fried oysters, sauteed beef tenderloin and a beef reduction ($13). Melts in your mouth.

Robison's mother's Sticky Toffee Apple Cake ($6) is a sensational surprise at the end of the evening, but we probably should have ordered coffee to go with it. The dish almost achieves the consistency of pudding, it being drenched in caramel sauce.

We were there on the second night, so the wine offerings weren't particularly expansive, but we were assured that should change soon.

Afterward, we tried our hands at throwing the boules in pentanque - aided by Mark Zimmerman - and although it looked like the easiest thing in the world to settle a heavy metal ball into a precise spot on crushed gravel, we soon shot that theory all to hell.

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