Review: The Blue Crab_lowres

The Blue Crab serves classic New Orleans seafood dishes like shrimp and grits.

Like many New Orleanians, I have fond memories of going out to dinner with my family as a child, particularly at seafood shacks on the Lakefront. I remember anxiously waiting for fried shrimp, french fries and hush puppies, twisting the stem of the cherry in my Shirley Temple and watching pelicans skim over the water. Evenings like those, overstuffed with food and family and boisterous conversation, were an invaluable part of growing up in New Orleans. A number of those eateries "ain't dere no more" following Hurricane Katrina. The recently opened Blue Crab, however, clearly looks to revive the feel of lakefront family dining. Overlooking Lake Pontchartrain near the tip of Lakeshore Drive, it's in the right spot. Whether you're sitting in the roomy, open dining room or on its outside patio, a good view of the water and the scent of briny air create a nostalgia for the lakefront of yesteryear. The Blue Crab specializes in the fruits of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding waters, particularly oysters, shrimp, fish, crabs and crawfish — which guests will find available in most preparations, from fried to steamed, grilled, sauteed or stuffed into a loaf of French bread. To this end, Blue Crab is mostly a success. A recent meal began with a number of shared appetizers. Hot, creamy blue crab dip with spinach and a side of blue tortilla chips was an excellent way to start, as were crispy onion rings and Parmesan calamari, which previewed good things to come from the deep fryer. On the unfried side, barbecue shrimp was appropriately spicy and swimming in butter sauce, made better still by the addition — new in my experience — of a cheese biscuit in the middle for sopping up the sauce. Gumbo was a disappointing misstep. The dark roux seafood gumbo carried an off-putting musty flavor, while the lighter chicken and sausage version lacked any sort of flavor outside of the sausage itself. But where things detour with the gumbo, Blue Crab swiftly gets back on track with its entrees. If you enjoy fried seafood, it's difficult to go wrong. An enormous plate of perfectly crispy oysters, catfish, shrimp and crab — stuffed or softshell, when in season — with fried crab claws, crabmeat croquette, hush puppies and fries makes up the restaurant's signature platter, a decadent and wholly satisfying offering. At $30, it may seem pricey, but it's meant to be shared. On the lighter but no less pleasurable side is a classic entree of jumbo, juicy boiled shrimp, as well as a perfectly grilled redfish prepared with meuniere, amandine or lemon-butter sauce. Guests also can choose to have their fish blackened or fried. Beware that not everything on the menu is available. On one visit, there were no raw oysters and only one remaining order of charbroiled oysters — which hit the spot. While Blue Crab has some kinks to work out as it grows, it's clear it will be serving seafood for the foreseeable future. Thank goodness for that, because I'll certainly be back — with the family, of course.