If the Caribbean and its culture seem far away, remember: That body of water adjoins the Gulf of Mexico. That symbolizes what’s going on at the Bullfish Bar and Kitchen, where the menu and the seasonings make Jamaica feel like it’s part of south Louisiana.
Bullfish fuses a lot of culinary styles into its menu. Parts are typical of any local seafood eatery, with po-boys, gumbo and crawfish on top of other entrees. There is a significant island influence and cream sauces that seem more French than anything else. If there is one word to describe it, that word is robust. Almost everything we sampled on our recent visit was boldly flavorful. The spice rack definitely gets a workout in this kitchen.
Obviously, that by itself does not make food good. While there was at least one side dish where we thought some restraint was in order, we thoroughly enjoyed our meals.
Plantain chips and a mango salsa are complimentary. There are several interesting appetizers with roots in Haiti, the Bahamas and Jamaica, and we chose the jumbo caramelized scallops ($12.95). Two large scallops are served atop mushrooms and a bed of sautéed spinach and covered with a peppery cream sauce. This is a wonderful way to jump-start a meal — light, with tender scallops and enough seasoning to alert the palate as to what’s about to come.
Like jambalaya? Well, south Louisiana isn’t the only place that knows how to take rice and make a savory meal. Bullfish’s paella ($15.95) is a Spanish version that blends saffron rice with shrimp, andouille sausage, crawfish, scallops and peas into a satisfying meal that comes served in a cast iron skillet. This was the most mildly seasoned of the entrees we ordered.
On the other end of the spectrum is the curry goat ($18.95), which the menu advises is seasonal. (Goat has a season? Who knew?) The dominant flavor is, of course, curry, and there’s enough to immediately get your attention, but not so much that it interfered with being able to taste other, more lightly accented items. The meat came mixed with cooked carrots and potatoes, and it was moist and tender. As one of the two sides, we ordered the jasmine scented coconut white rice, which had a delicate sweetness that complemented the curry dish nicely.
The fresh fish calypso ($17.95) offers the option of blackened or grilled salmon, redfish or mahi mahi. The grilled salmon was moist and tender and covered in a tart mango salsa. It was nice, but our favorite selection was the Jamaican jerk grilled fish fillet topped with creole herbal butter and shrimp ($16.95). This was vividly peppery, but the butter sauce made every bite smooth and satisfying.
Three of us chose greens — mustard greens, we think — as one of the side orders, and it was cooked in a pepper sauce. The kitchen might consider using less. Everything on a plate doesn’t have to compete for attention, and this was a stronger flavor that it needed to be.
The key lime pie ($5.95) was the most Caribbean of the four dessert options, and it was the perfect way to end our meal — light, with a pleasing meringue and thick, graham-cracker crust.
Although our servers were pleasant and polite, it seemed to take a long time for our appetizer and dessert to reach us, and even on a night with few diners, we couldn’t always flag down our server when we wanted something. That, however, won't keep us from going back.
The Bullfish Bar and Kitchen
4001 Nicholson Drive
4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
(225) 478-1690; thebullfishbar.com
PROS: Flavorful, interesting menu
CONS: Inattentive service