Restaurant dishes

First bite: Houston’s new restaurant offers Creole flavors

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After a few weeks of cocktail and happy hour service only, Acadian coast officially opened for dinner. Located in the East End at 2929 Navigation, the restaurant is now bringing Acadian and Creole flavors to an area long known for some of the best Mexican food in town.

The restaurant is a partnership between John Avila of Henderson and Kane general store and Bruce Gingrich of Corky’s BBQ. Chief Jean-Philippe Gaston helped with menu development at first, but evolved; Avila now takes care of the kitchen. The concept combines the seafood of the Gulf Coast with the flavors of the Creole country of Louisiana and Acadia of Canada, while using the culinary traditions of the southern United States. To accompany the dishes, the cocktail menu offers drinks inspired by New Orleans.

The Acadian coast bar. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

The menu is currently seafood-centric, but there are plans to add hearty meat dishes in the near future. Avila said sourcing high-quality game meat has been more difficult than expected, so some of the aspirational items that were planned, such as the rack of elk ribs, are now temporarily on hold. That said, Duck Confit with Quenelles and a rabbit dish will be added soon. Avila expects the menu to change with the seasons.

My group of three arrived on Tuesday evening for a reservation on the terrace. It was under 60 degrees and the heaters they ordered hadn’t arrived yet, so we opted for an inside cabin instead. My daughter and I ordered cocktails from the menu at the classic. I chose a seasonal Gin and tonic and she ordered a Pimm Cup. My husband opted for an iced tea, which arrived with only sugar available as a sweetening option, which was surprising. Both cocktails were refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable, but purists might wonder whether a Pimm’s Cup laced with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur or a dosed gin and tonic with Braulio and Vermouth count as classic interpretations.

Our selection of cold seafood dishes arrived with the cocktails: raw oysters in half shell and red snapper crudo. The oysters tasted very fresh and were served with reseda, cocktail sauce and crackers. The crudo seemed a bit bland even though it was nicely dressed with herbs, red onions, avocado and a honey citrus sauce. The next step was a heirloom tomato salad with Burrata, Crispy Basil and Lemon Herb Vinaigrette. It was bright, lively and appreciated by all.

The ancestral tomato salad from the Acadian coast. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

Our crab cakes and the shrimp brochette were the first hot dishes to arrive. The crab cakes were the table’s undisputed favorite, served on a lemon and dill aioli and, although part of the “Smalls” menu, were two generously sized cakes for $13. Although listed on the menu as being made with giant crab, the crabmeat was well mixed with breadcrumbs so there were no huge chunks visible. The prawn skewer was served on a skewer over a bed of dirty rice, with crispy bacon bits as topping rather than wrapped around the prawns as expected. That said, the dirty rice was excellent and we all really enjoyed the presentation. We had the appetizer version (5 medium prawns for $9), but there is also an entree option.

The seafood platter from the Acadian coast. Courtesy picture.

For the starter, we opted for the seafood platter which comes with catfish, shrimp, oysters and a soft shell crab. All fish and seafood are fried and served with julienne potatoes and coleslaw. We replaced the oysters with extra shrimp with no problem. The platter was generously loaded and everything was fresh, crispy and delicious. We enjoyed two additional cocktails with this dish: a frozen ginger mule and one lily flower. Both were good, but the seasonal gin and tonic was my favorite drink of the night. Other entree choices were fish okra, prawn grits and cheese and one striploin.

Other bar options include a wide selection of craft beers — both on tap and in bottles and cans — a small offering of French wines by the glass with a California Cabernet, plus several other cocktails. Avila says the wine list will soon expand and mentioned a recently discovered Texas rosé.

The Acadian Coast cocktail menu offers something for everyone. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

Happy hour runs from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with discounted prices on drinks with recommended small bites from the menu, plus a charcuterie and cheese platter. There are also $1 oysters for Sunday happy hour. Beer prices start at $4 by the glass, while wine is $6 and frozen and draft cocktails are $8. Acadian Coast has a good sized patio with indoor and outdoor bar seating. Live music on the patio is part of the ambiance, as the restaurant has a permanent stage to host a scheduled roster of musicians. Two fireplaces provide nominal heat, but additional heaters have been ordered and should make the space more pleasant in the colder months ahead. Avila shared that the frozen drinks were a huge hit during the early warmer days, with the fall flavors of Milk Punch being crowd favorites.

Donuts from the Acadian coast. Courtesy picture.

We ended our meal with donuts served with two dips, pink pepper and chocolate chicory. It was a perfect end to the evening and easy to share for three people. Other dessert options include a Triple Layer Chocolate Pie, Strawberry and Cream Bread Pudding, Sweet potato pie and one Lime sundae.

Live music on the Côte Acadienne terrace. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

Côte Acadienne is currently open Tuesday to Thursday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Lunch hours will be added soon and morning donut and coffee service will follow.

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