Gumbo Limbo

Christabelle's Quarter serves up the Very Big Easy in the Grove

I didn't like the duck. At least not the skin, which was squishy, nor the smothering, which was really just a dull brown sauce. The bird was tender, though, and imbued with full, unsmothered duck taste. Entrées come à la carte, so we ordered a couple of the family-size sides: a smoky white bean casserole tastefully tinged with tasso ham; and candied, bourbon-infused, pecan-studded sweet potato casserole, which will thrill those who crave sweetness during the main course. Others should consider it for dessert. Seriously. It's a little like Louisiana sweet potato pecan pie, but with fewer nuts and no crust.

A blackened drum fish, which is the new blackened redfish (a drum relative), arrived thick, moist, and with requisite heat inspired by white/black/red peppers and spices. But it was limply sautéed, not sizzlingly seared, and more accurately would have been called a beiged drum fish. We poured our choice of distinctive seafood side sauces, crab fat with vanilla bean, over just about everything. It is, as you might imagine, extremely rich — and as you might not imagine, very delicious.

Other fish selections come grilled, broiled, blackened, or fried, and specialties of the house include oysters flown in daily from New Orleans and dry-aged steaks and chops. Bozhan was given "Veal Louisiana." (I'm not heartless; I checked with him first to make sure he was all right with my choice.) What did he think of the willowy veal cutlets, thinly breaded and capped with a toothsome tangle of crawfish, shrimp, and crabmeat? "On a scale of one to ten, I'd give it an eight."

Joe Rocco

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Christabelle's Quarter

3157 Commodore Plaza
Miami, FL 33133

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Coconut Grove

Details

Christabelle's Quarter, 3157 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove; 786-517-5299. Open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

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There is no rice, beans, and andouille sausage dish on the menu. No dirty rice, jambalaya, crawfish pie, me-oh-my-oh. Not even a decent biscuit or cornbread stick to start the meal, but rather stiff white or wheat rolls (though the gutsy garlic-cayenne butter was almost good enough to rescue both). At meal's end, a silver dessert tray brought to our table contained three tired specimens, each looking like the pastry equivalent of a used car. We selected bourbon bread pudding, which was nothing to get drunk over. Better to accomplish that by way of an excellent and extensive wine list of vintage bottles at a reasonable markup.

Christabelle's executive chef, Alex Patout, left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with little to his name, but before that, he helmed an eponymous restaurant in the French Quarter, to great acclaim, for sixteen years. He is too talented for the food to be this blasé. One problem, but not the only one, is that an operation this large and ambitious requires more time to find its footing than does a smaller venue. In the near future, a lunch and weekend jazz brunch will follow, as well as evening concerts featuring jazz, R&B, gospel, and Cajun music — a means of Patout helping his musician friends get back on their feet.

I'll give Christabelle's plenty of time before I return to investigate lunch and brunch — and to finally try the crawfish etouffée. Bozhan sadly will be gone by then, and I expect that our stereo will have begun to work again.

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