John Curtas is …

RHYTHM KITCHEN Re-do

Ersters

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Jambalaya, and a crawfish pie and  filé gumbo. For tonight I’m a-gonna see my cher-amio. Play guitar, fill  fruit jar and be gay-o. Son of a gun gonna have big fun on the bayou. - Hank Williams

Gumbo should be smoky, made with a good, long-cooked roux, and possessed of deep, long, soul-warming heat.

A proper étouffée should be made with a slightly lighter roux, that allows the taste of the holy trinity of Cajun food (bell peppers, celery and onions) to reveal themselves.

A crawfish étouffée should possess a hint of red (usually achieved with the use of some tomatoes and/or paprika. Some étouffées start with butter in their roux, and some (like Paul Prudhomme’s) like the lighter, less intrusive flavor that comes with vegetable oil as a base. The point is to “smother” the main ingredient while still allowing the subtleties of the individual ingredients to shine through.

All Cajun/Creole food is spicy, but not in the hallucinogenic, electric, shock-to-the-system way Thai food is. The pepper heat should build over time in your mouth (and soul) and should never obscure all the other ingredients nor be the main point of the dish.

Properly cooked Cajun/Creole food is one of the most distinctive things in American gastronomy. Some may find its patois and recipe canons to be somewhat formulaic, but like dancing the tango, there is a right and a wrong way to do it, and the fascination comes from watching great craftsmen operate (and create) within those strictures.

Which brings us to Rhythm Kitchen –  place ELV had visited but once, several years ago, and been underwhelmed to the point that he mentally checked it off his list — wanting neither to hurt nor help its business. At the time, the whole place seemed too big, and the menu so unfocused, it seemed a sure bet to fail.

By way of example, Thai and Hawaiian food (along with a Caesar salad) shared space on an all-over-the-map menu with steak house fare as well as…wait for it….pizza!

“The jack of all trades is the master of none,” we thought to ourselves, and vowed never to return. (If you’re a fan of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” you know this is his mantra, and the first thing he does is cut down the menus at struggling places.)

But something seized us last Saturday night, and serendipity being what it is, we strolled back in. And who should stroll right up to us at the hostess stand than food and beverage pro Paul Ellis — the same Paul Ellis we had just had lunch with two days earlier (at Booming Spot Mini Pot, but more on that later).

Ellis explained he was now acting as a consultant for RK and quickly reassured us the pizzas were coming off the menu. Then, again proving great minds think alike, he asked us what we were going to have. “Gumbo, jambalaya and etouffee?”

You betcha!” ELV answered, “because those are the measure of any southern Louisiana kitchen.”

And then we were off to the races….but not before some superb grilled oysters showed up (another litmus test), covered in spinach, but not overwhelmed by, a good cheese sauce.

Suffice it to say, we were blown away by the carefulness of the cooking and the quality of the ingredients. The gumbo hit all the right flavor notes, and the étouffée and jambalaya would’ve been right at home in any N’Awlins restaurant.

If ELV wanted to pick some nits, he’d have wished for a touch of Pernod in his ersters (a la Rockefeller) and a bit of a heavier hand with the hot pepper, but those are minor quibbles indeed.

The beignets are also things of beauty…and took us straight back to the Cafe Du Monde, minus the humidity (which is a good thing).

Now, if they’ll just dump the Thai salad, ahi poke tacos, Memphis spareribs and pepperoni pizza, this place will be all set to be your go-to Cajun place.

Those oysters cost $10, the gumbo $8, and the étouffée and the jambalaya are $17 each. ELV’s meal was comped.

Take it away Buckwheat Zydeco:

RHYTHM KITCHEN

6435 South Decatur Boulevard

Las Vegas, NV 89118

702.767.8438

http://www.rhythmkitchenlv.com/

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5 Responses to RHYTHM KITCHEN Re-do

  • Shouldn’t that be filé?

  • Speaking of “Booming Pot” we just had dinner their and anxious to read your take. I found it mixed with some of the best ” House made Hot Sauce” and a “do it your self” condiment counter that was good. The hot pots were in my case pig knuckles and my partner chose the tendons. Both great but the burner using Gel never really got the job done and the soup was just above lukewarm. Maybe they were still sorting out a recent opening as this location was “You and Me” until a few weeks ago.
    Anyway we will try Rhythm and wait for your review or comments about ‘Booming” let you know our take on Rhythm

    Keep up this very interesting and good reporting on our dynamic and constantly improving food scene.

  • Punctuation and proof reading go a long away towards making an opinion legible and coherent. I’m sure you mean well, but something is lost along the way. No avarice implied.

  • You are correct and thanks; my computer has “spell check” but I am unable to locate the icon for “incoherence check”; maybe a little less wine before commenting is in order?
    Regards

  • I have been to this restaurant, and knowing creole/cajun food the way I do. I was rather disappointed. Anyone that has been to Louisiana knows that they take pride in their “Freshly Caught” seafood. Serving a crawfish étouffée is simply done if you know what your doing when making the roux, and if you are using fresh caught crawfish. Not the pre-cooked frozen tail meat! I do understand that we are in the desert, and that not everyone out here is willing to make the sacrifice for the love of the style of food that they are serving. This fo paux is easily fixed as easily as a well made étouffée, use shrimp. Etouffée first of is not served in the middle December with crawfish in it, why? because its not in season. This restaurant has this sorry excuse for a dish year round. If you don’t know the difference between fresh and frozen, I tell you to go see my friend Lola at Lola’s kitchen on a friday night when they are serving up that killer crawfish boil. “Corn, andouille, crawfish, me sitting at the table sucking head spitting tail” I tell you my downfall as a southern man will be fried catfish, fine women, and lola’s killer crawfish boil.

    To address the other fo paux in the above article creole/cajun food does not have to be hot! 9 times out of 10 it is spicy (or has a lot of spice, not necessarily hot) The recent sad good bye of another great restaurant who truly understood this style of cooking, Rosemary’s was a great example of this. Had you ordered the big, fat, double cut pork chop served over hoppin john and mustard sauce you would have had something that was almost a window into the history of New Orleans. Michael Jordan and I sat and discussed the misunderstanding of this cuisine fairly often. To quote the man “people see a recipe and that has a lot of cayenne pepper and they just start dumping whatever into it”. You see the cayenne pepper we see the most out here is from mexico. Grown in a hot arid dry region. This produces a hotter chili or more capsaicin in this case. In LA the region its more moist, full of swamp water due to the mississppi run off. The chili much like a grape can grow in multiple different regions and you will get different affects. In this case you get milder smokier version of this chili. Which is where you get the smoky flavor from when your eating étouffée. Just FYI.
    and sorry for the grammatical errors I’m a chef not a food blogger.

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