Tuesday, January 24, 2012

K-Paul's: Is It Worth It?

The dish which made Paul Prudhomme a legend: Blackened fish, here drum, with crabmeat. 

The first cookbook I ever received was Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pure Magic cookbook. It came, as I can remember, in a box with a set of four Magic Seasonings Blends. This may seem like a strange Christmas gift for a twelve year old, but I was a strange twelve year old. That cookbook got a heavy workout for the next few months and the Magic Seasonings went on everything. As you are no doubt aware, Prudhomme is a giant in the American food world. He is largely responsible for making the cuisine and techniques of Southwest Louisiana household recipes. It is to his credit, or blame, that restaurants around the world serve Cajun chicken breasts and blackened tofu.

The restaurant which vaulted him to fame, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, is located on a hidden-in-plain sight block of Chartres Street, across the way from the Louisiana Supreme Court. A call last Friday afternoon, yielded a table for two in the upstairs of the restaurant, tucked away into a corner, and located near one of the large windows. The menu is large, a relic of culinary history, with descriptions that run longer than a Kenyan marathoner. The room is largely brick and ornamented with the artwork of George Rodrigue. There is a well-studied wine list and a good vibe in both dining rooms, as comfort and dining meld together.

First up, the bread basket. Yeast rolls, a cornbread, a jalapeno yeast roll, and a molasses corn bread were sufficient, but the molasses one was difficult to chew- either stale or overcooked, we couldn't discern which. Chicken and andouille gumbo is as good as you would imagine: dark, rich, and chock full of the namesake ingredients. Perhaps better was Lindsay's greens and ham soup. The broth had ceased to be liquid and transformed into a thick porridge of delicious greens. The hambone brought to the soup a well-needed dose of salt. This was delicious soup - too bad we have only had three days of proper soup weather this winter. 

If time machines were legal, I'd like to travel back in time and stop whoever convinced fine dining restaurants to serve salads with dressing on the side. This is such a waste of lettuce and more importantly, their creamy, potent green onion dressing. Until Congress makes time machines legal, restaurants please stop doing this. It kills the salad, resulting in greens that are either overdressed or underdressed. And finally, anyone who orders dressing on the side ends up eating the whole damn ramekin anyway.

After a wait long enough to notice that enough time had elapsed between courses, a runner ran out two plates of food to the table next to us. They looked suspiciously like our order. After a few moments, the couple remarked to one another, "This doesn't look like what we ordered." Sure enough they had received our order. Imagine two tables in a restaurant furtively looking for a waiter or bus boy to alert them to a mistake. Then imagine about five more minutes elapsing before someone comes over. Than imagine, a waiter simply taking the plates off one table and putting them onto your table. If that happens at Parkway, ok. But with entree prices in the mid thirties, there is a level of service one expects. Unfortunately, these sort of things can derail a meal.

As for the entrees, nothing was bad. Except the mashed potatoes on Lindsay's plate, which had the texture of wallpaper paste. They had cooled by the time they got to our table, the butter and starch of the potatoes turning into glue. Lindsay's blackened drum was delicious and moist, but with a less than acceptable smattering of crabmeat. My paneed rabbit was well-seasoned and crusty. A touch dry, a sauce would have gone a long way to making that dish sing. Another element of the plate, jambalaya suffered the opposite fate. I have never had Creole sauce on jambalaya. Perhaps it is some traditional accompaniment. Perhaps I am out of my element, but on the jambalaya, it was a disaster. We each got the 1990's medley of sauteed vegetables, but nothing wrong with that. 

The waitress attempted to make up for the entree screw up by delivering a jar of Magic Seasonings Blends with the check. But by then, my mind was made up. Paul Prudhomme is a legend, a great deliverer, interpreter, and ambassador of Cajun culture. His books and products are wonderful and a welcome addition to your collections. His cooking shows are a downright pleasure. But, a trip to his restaurant, you can skip. 

K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen - Feel free to skip.
416 Chartres Street
Deli Lunch Tues.-Sat. 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Dinner Mon.- Sat. 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm


Wilson said...

Yup, I concur. Haven't been back for dinner in 2 years, my rabbit was also too dry and service indifferent. I also felt like they were trying to hurry us out to turn over the table. Not a fan either of the lunch service, although I realize the costs and expectations are lower. $13 for a popcorn crawfish po-boy that has more tomato salsa than crawfish? I shouldn't polish off a po-boy of that price and leave a restaurant as famished as I remained. Definitely living on name recognition.

willifred said...

My last really good meal there was in 1984 during the worlds fair

Fleurdelicious said...

I like to refer to places like K Pauls as taste good/feel bad restaurants. The food is wayyyy too rich for my taste and the portions are out of control. My paneed rabbit with red eye gravy could have fed a family of 5.

NMissC said...

I more or less gave up about 5-6 years ago, after an experience like the one described in the review. And the price did seem to have unreasonably launched through the roof.

In the 80s, the jambalaya with the creole sauce (then an appetizer, basically a scoop of jambalaya surrounded by the sauce) worked very well; I wonder if it has been changed. It, the gumbo, and the rabbit tenderloin with mustard sauce were my favorite things there.

kibbles said...

I am completely blown away by the entree table swap. I can't even imagine Applebee's doing that, let alone an authoritive semi fine dining restaurant....

littlewitch said...

I live in the French Quarter and K-Paul's is my go to restaurant when we have company in town or at Christmas with family. I find the service pleasant and the food is still a faithful representation of a certain kind of Southern Louisiana cuisine. The Blackened steak is always amazing, The Rabbit, gumbo, turtle soup and Salad with Green Goddess dressing is so great. The Pirogue with crab, Jambalaya and blackened fish is so good. The bread Basket is the best in the city. And the Cajun Martini's are unique and delicious. To me K-Pauls is a sure thing. Everyone always enjoys it. It is quite expensive, and the food is rich but it is unique and still the best of it's kind. It is certainly better than NOLA or MURIEL'S or any Brennan's Restaurant Sorry you had a bad service experience but to suggest that K-Paul's is "Skippable" because of that is just plain sour. K-Paul's was an innovator that everyone has copied but it is still the best of the lot and worth a try.