New Orleans has long been the place to go in Louisiana for amazing oysters, but that was before downtown Baton Rouge became home to Jolie Pearl.
Just under 2 months old, the oyster bar has set the standard high and I’m still licking my fingers to prove it.
I dined with my husband, who was to help me face my fear of eating raw oysters because they typically just don’t look appetizing to me. Turns out I didn’t even need the hubby to cheer me on at Jolie Pearl as their oyster stock was lovely and so fresh you would think someone had just gone to sea for them.
We started with a half-dozen Gulf Coast raw ($6). They were served with horseradish with which to make cocktail sauce, but the horseradish was wonderful on its own as an oyster topper. You could definitely taste the freshness.
“They’re very flavorful and really fresh,” my husband said.
Next up was our platter of grilled and baked oysters. We had four Rockefeller ($7) and four BBQ NOLA ($7) accompanied by two pieces of grilled bread.
The BBQ NOLA (grilled oysters with butter, garlic, lemon juice and fresh herbs) had a pleasant kick that wasn’t aggressive or overbearing. Our waitress Alexa, who was in general very sweet, told us “the secret ingredient”: Bloody Mary mix. Even with the secret being revealed, I know I couldn’t recreate that taste. My husband dipped the bread into the shell that was spilling over with leftover juices so I did the same and I don’t think I can credit him with a better idea.
While he said he liked the grilled oysters better, that by no means takes anything away from the baked. The Rockefeller (traditional baked oysters with spinach, garlic, onions, Parmesan cheese and Pernod) was like an extremely delicious spinach dip with a surprise oyster underneath.
There was so much flavor on that plate that I nearly ate one of my fingers trying to get to it. It turned out to be one of those times I wished I hadn’t decided to share a platter.
Since I was still hungry, I ordered a half-pound of boiled and chilled shrimp at market price ($9.25). They were both fulfilling and very fresh, and obviously quite popular because I ordered the last of their daily supply and it was only 1 p.m.
Alexa told us that their most popular dish is actually the bacon and brie oysters. I had to take her word for it as I don’t eat pork, but if ever there was a day I wish I did ... .
Overall, the medium size bar-style restaurant was empty and quiet, but it was a Monday after traditional lunch hours so that doesn’t say much about their actual foot traffic. Alexa told us that it’s also not so quiet on Friday evenings as the bar hosts musical acts weekly. The stage is quite small so she said it’s usually a solo act or duo. I did notice, however, that the (usually) six-piece Michael Foster Project will play on Dec. 19. I look forward to seeing them squeeze onto the stage and, of course, for another reason to eat some awesomely delicious oysters.
And as my husband said, “If you’re going to do one thing, you gotta do it right.”
And Jolie Pearl does.