Dozen Best Seafood Gumbos
So many different versions of seafood gumbo exist that you could eat it every day for a year and never have two alike. Categorizing or ranking them is done only at the peril of starting an argument. My own definition of a seafood gumbo requires the presence of okra, a seafood-based stock, and (of course) seafood. As a result, some gumbos that have a lot of seafood, but also chicken, sausage, etc., didn't make this list. Not because I don't like them, but because I already have more than enough straight-seafood concoctions.
Here are my prejudices, which are not meant to compete with yours, but to state where I'm coming from. Okra seems essential for seafood gumbo. It gave gumbo its name, and in combination with the local seafood it creates the classic gumbo flavor. I also want to taste a shrimp or crab stock. Then there's the roux. Although the vogue in recent years favors rouxless gumbo, it makes the gumbo better. Medium-dark in color, it should be a smaller pecentage of a seafood gumbo than for a chicken gumbo.
The most controversial matter in the making of seafood gumbo is whether it should contain any tomato. I think it should--but not very much. It not only adds another flavor dimension, but solidifies the gumbo's Creole bona fides.
The final touch in a great gumbo is to have the seafood added at the last minute. The shrimp, crabmeat, or crab claws should be just barely cooked in advance, then added to the gumbo only enough ahead of serving to allow them to heat through. That avoids hard little shrimp and soft crabmeat. Oysters should go in raw, right before serving, with a couple minutes of simmering before serving.
Seafood gumbo is, more than any other Creole dish, the one that is least often successfully exported. To eat a good one, you have to be somewhere around here. Here are my dozen favorites.
1. Commander's Palace. Garden District: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Commander's kitchen prefers to think of seafood gumbo as an entree rather than as a starter (although you can get it either way). Its recipe is unusual in that is doesn't have a roux, getting its thickness instead from a highly-reduced seafood stock. And a lot of seafood.
2. GW Fins. French Quarter: 808 Bienville. 504-581-3467. Not enough seafood gumbos have oysters in them. This one does, plus big, firm shrimp and visible crabmeat. Nice thick broth.
3. Liuzza's By The Track. Esplanade Ridge: 1518 N Lopez. 504-218-7888. What's great about this gumbo is that while they make the broth the day before, they leave out all the actual seafood--shrimp, crabmeat, and sometimes oysters. Those go in only right before the bowl comes to the table, so they're vividly fresh. Wish everyone did this.
4. Drago's. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. ||CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911. They make it a day ahead and let the flavors come together. Old style, a little tomato, crab claws, firm shrimp.
5. Fury's. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646. Gumbo is an essential part of dining in this little neighborhood seafood house. It takes up just the right amount of time for them to prepare the fried seafood or chicken to order. Lighter broth, great flavor.
6. Grand Isle. Warehouse District: 575 Convention Center Blvd. 504-520-8530. They make shrimp gumbo here--shrimp stock, lots of shrimp in the bowl. The shrimpy tastes come right on through the thick broth.
7. Galley Seafood. Old Metairie: 2535 Metairie Rd. 504-832-0955. A classic in the lighter, old-fashioned style, with a broth on the thinner (but no less flavorful) side.
8. Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. John Besh's presence on this list is an wonderfully old-style Creole gumbo, with a visible but restrained presence of tomato and a lot of shrimp and crabmeat.
9. Acme Oyster House. French Quarter: 724 Iberville. 504-522-5973. || Metairie: 3000 Veterans Blvd. 504-309-4056. ||Covington: 1202 US 190 (Causeway Blvd). 985-246-6155. Absolutely consistent, because they get somebody else to make it for them. And so good my gumbo-loving son never passes it by.
9. Crazy Johnnie's. Metairie: 3520 18th St. 504-887-6641. A value-priced steakhouse might not seem the obvious place to go for gumbo, but here it is, and its goodness cannot be denied.
10. Joey K's. Uptown: 3001 Magazine. 504-891-0997. Like everything else here, the gumbo comes from a time machine set back to the late 1970s. So it's extra-thick--more with seafood than either roux or rice, although both are pleasant. A cup is filling.
11. Sushi Brothers. Lee Circle Area: 1612 St Charles Ave. 504-581-4449. Here's something unique: a miso soup made with okra and shrimp. Your palate responds: "Asian. No, Creole. No, Asian. Creole." And on and on, till gone.
12. Gumbo Shop. French Quarter: 630 St Peter. 504-525-1486. With a name like that, it had better be good. And it usually is, although it's a bit inconsistent.
|< Prev||Next >|