Dozen Best Crawfish Bisque
The bad news is that this was one tough subject to research. After hours of digging, I could only come up with ten restaurants that offer this greatest of all Cajun soups more than sporadically. The best of them only do it in crawfish season (Thanksgiving to the Fourth of July, if all goes well), and then only when the crawfish are nice. (And cheap, which is when they’re at their best.
Another deterrent for chefs is that crawfish bisque is time-consuming to make. Especially when they go all the way and make the stuffed crawfish heads, too. A lot of people expect to find stuffed heads in a bisque, even though they’re a) as much of a pain in the tail to eat and 2) don’t add a lot to the experience. The soup is the best part.
The good news is that this is the time of year to look for crawfish bisque. If you really want it bad, go to Cajun country. There, it’s everywhere, stuffed heads and all.
1. Vincent’s. Metairie: 4411 Chastant St. 504-885-2984. ||Uptown: 7839 St Charles Ave. 504-866-9313. Who would guess that one night, after closing his very Italian restaurant for the night, owner Vincent Catalanotto would stay up until two in the morning cooking a batch of crawfish bisque? And repeat the process several times a week throughout crawfish season? Or make the best version of the dish anywhere in the area? Who would imagine? But it’s true.
2. K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. French Quarter: 416 Chartres. 504-524-7394. K-Paul’s is and always has been about seasonality and changing menus. I had a crawfish bisque about which an entire book could be written some years ago, and people tell me they’ve had it lately. I look forward to the next coincidence.
3. SoBou. French Quarter: 310 Chartres St.. 504.552.4095. Smoked crawfish and Cognac bisque. Now there’s a combination that’s been waiting to happen. Dark roux, a little cream, and that mingling of two smoky flavors. And a good hit of red pepper.
4. Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422. Antoine’s has had many Cajun chefs in its kitchen over the eons, and they left behind the most old-fashioned version you are likely to find. Dark roux, with no visible crawfish tails. That’s because the meat is pureed into the soup, but try to explain that to an eater. They add a couple of crawfish heads, which are no better here than anywhere else.
5. Brigtsen’s. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610. Like all of the chef’s soups, this one’s appearances are unpredictable. But no chef makes better soups, and when it turns up, you’ll love it.
6. Bon Ton Cafe. CBD: 401 Magazine. 504-524-3386. The only restaurant in New Orleans with crawfish bisque year-round, the Bon Ton makes a workman like version, stuffed heads and all.
7. Latil’s Landing. River Parishes: In Houmas House Plantation. 225-473-9380. Chef Jeremy Langlois, who likes highly polished dishes, made this up a few years ago, and zowie! It’s non-traditional but nice. Curried pumpkin, crawfish, and corn. Cream. A very flavorful stock. Yum.
8. Cafe Reconcile. Warehouse District & Center City: 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-568-1157. Old style, dark roux, stuffed heads, all showing up now and then as a special. Excellent work. students.
9. Café B. Metairie 1: Old Metairie: 2700 Metairie Road. 504-934-4700. For this year’s inaugural crawfish festival at the new Metairie Road bistro, chef Christ Montero created a crawfish and tomato bisque. Interesting idea, and very tasty.
10. Porter & Luke’s. Metairie 1: Old Metairie: 1517 Metairie Road. 504-875-4555. It hasn’t been around long enough to show off its entire repertoire, but I had chef Vincent Manguno’s bisque at the Creole Grille, and thought it first-class.
11. Nola. French Quarter: 534 St Louis. 504-522-6652. Here’s another restaurant that served me a crawfish bisque I still remember, but where finding it again is a dice roll. Thick, with a richness that came more from the roux than the small amount of cream, and palpable shreds of crawfish tail meat.
12. Zimmer’s . Gentilly: 4915 St Anthony Ave. 504-282-7150. I didn’t expect to find a crawfish bisque at this good little seafood cafe in Gentilly, but there it was, as good as all the other food I’ve had here. Not much on looks, but they know how to cook.
“So where’s the Peppermill’s crawfish bisque?” I can hear some people asking. Well, that’s one of the very few dishes the Peppermill makes that I’ve never thought especially good. But its popularity can’t be denied. And they have it all the time.