There's something about dining out during the holidays that brings the experience to another, more festive level.
Maybe it's all the Christmas decorations and holiday music. There's just magic and anticipation in the air.
No doubt many have looked forward to the opening of the Juban family's fourth Baton Rouge restaurant. Adrian's opened in September on Perkins Road East near Alexander's Highland Market. And reservation spots were few to none last weekend. Guess a lot of folks enjoy a dinner out as Christmas Day nears.
Besides their namesake elegant restaurant on Perkins Road near South Acadian Thruway, the Jubans also own Beausoleil Restaurant & Bar on Jefferson Highway and Christina's on St. Charles Street. They've billed eatery No. 4 as a more casual, family-friendly restaurant. Fortunately, they've brought along some of the Juban's classic dishes, too.
Large wreaths and bows adorn the doors and outside lamps. Inside, the foyer features a tall, decked-out Christmas tree. Moving on to the large dining area separated within by clear, paned windows, here's where the casual comes in — vintage bulb lighting, exposed ceiling beams, and loads of tan brick and dark wood accents. Dotted around the area are gold ornament wreaths. Above the raw bar is a gigantic crab art piece.
For an appetizer, we debated between the onion strings, which are buttermilk battered and served with remoulade sauce; and the crispy calamari ($9.50) served alongside pomodoro sauce. The calamari won out, and so did we.
The large bowl easily held 50-60 small rings of lightly battered and fried, crispy and delectable squid. And the garlic-laced tomato sauce was a wonderful dipping agent. There were only two of us, but this app would easily satisfy four.
Our two entrees came with a Sensation salad, a Baton Rouge stand-by, but for good reason. Fresh greens accented with garlic, lemon, olive oil and Romano cheese, along with small homemade croutons, still make this a special salad after all these years.
I seldom order pork chops, but I'm glad I made an exception for the pork chop pomodoro ($24.50). Fourteen ounces of center-cut loin chop were broiled to medium and dribbled with the delicious aforementioned tomato-based sauce. Our waitress brought a steak knife for cutting the pork, but a butter knife probably would have done the job, as this may have been the most tender chop I've ever eaten. Creamy and fluffy garlic smashed potatoes accompanied this delicious dish.
The Adrian's fisherman's seafood platter ($28.75) was the lone disappointment. The generous amounts of fried shrimp and oysters were overcooked, and the catfish mushy. The stuffed shrimp were a highlight, but the soft-shell crab was half the size of those normally seen in seafood restaurants. The accompanying dirty rice was satisfying but couldn't make up for the rest of the platter.
Perusing the dessert tray, we decided to share a slice of carrot cake ($8.50). Five heavenly layers of super-moist cake were separated by sweet cream cheese frosting, the cake and the icing dotted with pecans and raisins. Warning: Don't tackle this one on your own, no matter how deliciously tempting it looks.
During a lunch visit, I tried the mahi burger ($12.75) and can recommend it as a lighter alternative to the ubiquitous po-boy. The soft brioche bun held a grilled-to-tender fish filet large enough to stretch beyond the bun. The Cajun slaw and tarter sauce toppings added sweet and savory moments to each bite.
Save the seafood platter, one can already tell that Adrian's will be a hit in the capital city. Even I would go back, if for nothing else than that pork chop and garlic mashed potatoes.
18143 Perkins Road E., Suite A, Baton Rouge
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday - Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
INFO: Call (225) 778-5119 or visit adriansbyjubans.com.
PROS: Calamari, pork chop and carrot cake; the Sensation salad is still sensational
CONS: Overcooked seafood on platter