Waiting for a table at Roux 61 — and you will wait if you go for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night — provides time to examine a décor that is, to put it mildly, eclectic.
With a mounted deer and bobcat head, old tennis rackets and water skis, a bicycle, tail fins of a ’50s-era car, a pirogue and other items of no particular theme adorning the unfinished wood walls, one suspects the decorator had no plan in mind.
The same, fortunately, cannot be said about the kitchen.
There’s a reason the place is crowded as we joined other patrons in parking at a neighboring business a block away for dinner. The food is flavorful, plentiful and served in a casual atmosphere by an efficient and friendly wait staff.
The Bluebonnet Boulevard location has seen many iterations of seafood-oriented restaurants over the past three decades or so (including Boutin’s, Mulate’s and Cock of the Walk).
Based on our recent experience, Roux 61 is going to last.
One obvious test of any south Louisiana restaurant is dishing up quality seafood gumbo ($4.95, cup; $10.95, bowl), and Roux 61 takes its name seriously.
The roux is darker than chocolate, and it is spiced enough to be interesting without setting the tongue on fire. Some decent-sized shrimp tails are accented with slices of sausage, which we enjoyed.
The Catfish Lebeaux ($18.95) is another delight, with catfish fried to perfection in a thin peppery batter and topped with a zesty, creamy crawfish étouffée. It’s garnished with green onions and served over rice.
Roux 61 has several platters, including popcorn shrimp ($15.95), which the menu, in an understatement, describes as “piled high.”
If the shrimp were piled any higher, a Sherpa would be needed to reach the summit. We didn’t attempt to count the number of fried shrimp tails atop the French fries and hush puppies, but one glance told us it was more than we would eat in one sitting. One bite assured us we would enjoy every moment of the dish. The shrimp was plump, moist and coated in a paper-thin but peppery batter.
The house salad is considerably better than those plates of iceberg lettuce with a little tomato and grated carrot served elsewhere. This spring mix salad is accented with mandarin orange slices, pecans, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, cranberries and a red onion slice. On the other hand, the coleslaw, which came with the shrimp, was plentiful, if fairly ordinary.
After a filling meal, it’s hard to beat creme brûlée ($5.95) as a dessert, particularly when it comes topped with a strawberry and strawberry syrup drizzled on the plate.
We also made a lunch takeout visit. A seafood muffuletta ($13.95) sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Combine the French bread, olive mix and provolone cheese of a conventional muffuletta with fried catfish, oysters and shrimp, and how could it be anything other than awesome?
Here’s how. It’s not terrible, but it’s not nearly as good as it sounds. The seafood doesn’t mix nearly as well with the other ingredients as do ham, salami and mortadella, and the texture isn’t the same.
Texture is an underappreciated aspect of dining, particularly when it comes to sandwiches. Traditional muffulettas, with all that meat and cheese packed into a dense bunch, have a satisfying chew that this version lacks, especially in areas where the seafood doesn’t extend, and it feels like biting into an air sandwich.
But this sandwich is just one blemish in an otherwise fine dining experience.