The trouble with loving something is you always want it to be better. Think: your kids or your favorite sports team. Or think your favorite cuisine (well, one of them at least) in the whole world.
The trouble with knowing a lot about something is you have little tolerance for imperfections. Think: mathematics or cooking.
The trouble with having eaten your way around N’Awlins multiple times over forty years, watching Justin Wilson like a hawk, and cooking your way through Paul Prudhomme cookbooks is, you lose patience quickly with a fraud like the Cravin’ Cajun.
Conceptually, ELV has no problem with big steamed bags of cheap, nasty seafood being thrown on a table. If that’s your idea of a good time, have at it. Where a place like this goes off the rails for us is when it pretends to be cookin’ Cajun, when its cooks haven’t the foggiest idea what this food is supposed to taste like.
Thin, watery gumbo — made without even the suggestion of a roux base — may fool the Asian and Asian-American crowd this joint is aimed at, but it would be laughed out of Lafayette Parish. Floating a crab carcass and some skinny shards of backfin meat in chicken stock do not a gumbo make. Nor does meat of frozen crawfish, adrift in the soup like so many packing peanuts (and tasting like styrofoam) do anything for this place’s Luzianna bona fides.
Do you know how frozen (and re-frozen) shellfish (like shrimp and crawfish) often gets that mushy, tasteless quality in the mouth — having lost all elasticity due to poor or extended storage? We’re sure you do…and we’re equally sure you’ll figure out after two bites that this joint specializes in such things. Another affront: we asked for our gumbo “extra spicy” and it wouldn’t have offended Aunt Edna.
Equally egregious: the etoufée. It was so bad bad it made the gumbo seem like Emeril himself had made it. Again we asked for it “extra hot” and it was even blander than the gumbo. No layering of seasonings, no multiple peppers being employed. If you’ve ever cooked from a real Cajun cookbook, you know the seasoning list is often as long as your arm. Here, it doesn’t extend past your rotator cuff.
The cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, however, were pretty good.
And then….there was the crab cake. Inexcusable. An abomination. The worst. In a town full of great crab cakes, an embarrassment. Crappy crab on a level you wouldn’t find in a frozen food aisle. All breading (and tasting of such), seasoning-free, and deep fried to a crispy reddish brown, it was like the world’s largest, most horrendous hush puppy. Whoever conceived it should be taken to the woodshed and whoever cooked it should be ashamed of themselves.
Perhaps our vitriol is because CC is within walking distance of our office, and as soon as the sign went up we started fantasizing about lump meat days and andouille nights. Instead we get a tricked-out franchise wannabe, with all the soul of a shopping mall, cooking at a home-ec level….in a Utah high school. Instead of New Orleans jazz or zydeco, the sound track assaults you with lots of overplayed Eagles, Beach Boys and other 70s relics. Need we say more?
ELV’s two meals came to a total of $71.24 (including tips) — money and time he will never get back.
Take us home Hank:
3800 South Jones Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89146