Order the shrimp.
That’s the one solid takeaway we have from our recent visit to Pat’s Cajun Seafood and Steaks, the relatively new local seafood restaurant that has a well-known regional pedigree. The original location, just across the Atchafalaya Basin off Interstate 10, developed quite a following despite its lightly populated surroundings, and the restaurant’s second generation is trying to import its rustic appeal eastward.
Some of what we remember from visits across the basin made it. We’re not so sure about others.
Pat’s has done pretty well converting a nondescript building into an interior that never lets you forget it isn’t Red Lobster. The office, just inside the entrance, has been shaped to resemble a shrimp boat cabin, and much of the obviously new décor has a faux weathered appearance. That, along with photos and the Cajun band on Saturday night presses all the appropriate atmospheric buttons. The staff was friendly and attentive without attempting to adopt us, which we appreciate.
We started off with the crab cakes appetizer ($15.95). They arrived promptly, and were as visually appealing as any we’ve encountered — brown, seared exterior, topped with a cream sauce with a dusting of what looked like cayenne and a green herb we couldn’t identify with certainty. To our surprise, the cream sauce dominated the flavor, which wasn’t bad by itself. What we didn’t like was the somewhat gummy texture. Our tableside forensics reached the conclusion that it was too much breading.
The cup of seafood gumbo ($8.95) was pretty good, with about 10 shrimp tails, two crab fingers and a roux with a healthy dose of black pepper. Some of us thought the roux could have stayed on the skillet about a minute longer, but there is a wide variety of opinion about what makes the perfect gumbo.
There is, however, only one correct opinion about grilled or fried shrimp, and here it is: They should be firm, moist and given enough seasoning — either directly or in the frying batter — to accent the shrimp without obliterating their distinctive flavor. Pat’s got it right both grilled ($18.95) and fried ($17.95 in a half-and-half dish with etouffee). The former came with a baked potato, the latter, which featured a think, crisp batter, with French fries. The etouffee, with a pleasantly peppered sauce, was served in a small bowl with rice on the side.
The broiled snapper ($16.95) was served with melted butter on the side, the importance of which we discovered after the first bite, which seemed bland at first. Then, the spices attacked out of nowhere. In addition to the pleasing flavor butter has with any flaky fish, it also created a better flavor balance. This dish came with a baked potato.
Our final entrée was the camp-style crawfish etouffee ($20.95), so named because the bell peppers, onions and tomatoes are cut into bigger chunks than the traditional version. That was good, but overall, this could have used more seasoning (which, fortunately, is supplied at the table). It’s a large portion, enough for two meals by our standards.
Speaking of filling, none of us needed dessert, but out of sheer loyalty to our readers, we chose the crème brulee ($5.95), and it was a good choice — light, delightfully sweet with a hint of vanilla, with the pleasing texture of the crisp, fired top and the decadent creaminess beneath, and a fresh blackberry on top.
We’ll have to make another foray to sample the steaks. That is, if we don’t get the shrimp. Can’t go wrong there.