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A Taste of the Big Easy (Full Review)
Reviewed By Kate Nerenberg
Comments () | Published August 1, 2011

Bayou
Address: 2519 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-223-6941
Neighborhood: Foggy Bottom/West End, Downtown
Cuisines: Southern, American, Cajun/Creole
Opening Hours: Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday 11 AM to 10 PM, Friday and Saturday 11 AM to 11 PM.
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Kid Friendly: Yes
Nearby Metro Stops: Foggy Bottom-GWU
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Informal
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Not Needed
Best Dishes Green-tomato-and-tuna tartare with Tabasco aïoli; crawfish-and-andouille “cheesecake”; fried green tomatoes with red-pepper aïoli, corn salsa, and goat cheese; St. Charles po’ boy with fried shrimp; blackened catfish with dirty rice, collards, and tomato
Price Details: Starters $4.95 to $11.95, entrées $17.95 to $23.95.
Special Features:
Wheelchair Accessible, Kid Friendly

When it comes to dining, Washington’s embracing the Southern half of its DNA—specifically, the New Orleans gene. In the last six months, Louisiana-focused kitchens have opened in DC’s Woodley Park (Hot N Juicy Crawfish) and Dupont Circle (the Cajun Experience) and in Arlington’s Courthouse (Bayou Bakery). Then there’s Bayou, in DC’s West End, the latest from restaurateur Bo Blair (Surfside, Jetties, Smith Point). He’s turned his bilevel private club, the Rookery, into a restaurant—purple walls, Crystal hot sauce on the tables, zydeco on weekends.

While chef Rusty Holman, a North Carolina native, draws on traditional recipes for some dishes—including good oysters Rockefeller and barbecue shrimp—he does best with creative takes. Crawfish and andouille sausage make their way into a quiche-like “cheesecake” with cream cheese, smoked Gouda, and peppers. The least conventional appetizer, it’s also the best. Barbecue-pork “drumsticks”—slathered with a thick sauce made with reduced red-hot jelly—come on a bed of creamy coleslaw, a riff on the pepper-jelly-and-cream-cheese duo.

Fiery blackened catfish is set off by vinegary collards and a sweet green-tomato chutney: an imaginative rejiggering of Southern flavors. But the garnishes—Meyer-lemon vinaigrette, chive oil—on a piece of pan-seared rockfish seemed too refined. Crawfish carbonara, a meeting of Louisiana and Little Italy, ended up a mess, the shellfish tails cooked to oblivion, the pasta stuck in a mud of garlic cream.

Missteps aside, it’s nice to visit Bayou when the tables outside are jammed with Sazerac-fueled customers and dinner starts with complimentary soft biscuits. And if you’re not transported from Pennsylvania Avenue to Bourbon Street, it’s still a fun place to eat.

This article appears in the August 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 08/01/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews