Wednesday, March 14, 2018. A few days ago I suggested that MA and I should go to the Country Club in the Bywater precinct of Downtown. The Country Club is a large, elaborate restaurant combined with a public swimming pool, a large array of chaise longues and many outdoor tables for dining. Indoor tables are all in small dining rooms that are very effective in keeping the noise down. Hand-painted art all around adds a nice touch. In the center of all this is a large, oval-shaped bar, which tonight is certainly the largest and busiest part of the Country Club–which, I should note, is neither in the country nor is a club.
Every year at this time, my eyes turn my restaurant studies away from Uptown, Metairie, the North Shore, and all the other familiar parts of town. Instead, I turn towards the Bywater and Marigny, where the restaurants are many interesting eateries not far from the middle of town. It’s the effect of Daylight Saving Time that makes this happen. Last time I was at the Country Club, it was quite dark by the time most of the Eat Club had made it into the Bywater. The signs are hard to read then, and getting out of the district is equally challenging.
We are joined by our friends the Swifts, with whom we don’t dine nearly often enough. The two of them share many interests and tastes, and they had teenagers in high school the same time we did. And the early darkness during the cooler months keep them away from restaurants like the the Country Club.
We all agree that we like the food that came to the table, I began in my usual way: with some roasted oysters on the half shell and a large pile of mussels. This is the time for mussels, as we can tell by the low prices alone. I gobbled them down with the classic wine-and-butter sauce. It is at this time that I notice that I said nothing at the table about the many baskets of mussels that I devoured when MA and I were on our honeymoon in Belgium, one of the hungriest places in the world for those who love mussels.
The Swifts hit a nice jackpot by asking for the chateaubriand, a double filet mignon that they will split between one another, leaving enough for the rest of us to sample the goodness of the beef. It is the best I’ve had lately, but I’m not impressed by many steaks in restaurants these days.
The restaurant is not very busy. Obviously, the pool-and-outdoor dining people are driven away by the temperatures outside–in the fifties. A few people are having dinner. We have the room to ourselves. The bar was where the action is, as we could tell by the lengthy time it takes to get a cocktail. It’s hard to review a restaurant with business this slack, even though the menu is rife with interesting dishes. We are setting it up for more dinners with the Swifts and more friends.
The marinade for the fish is one that the late, great chef Gerard Crozier used to prepare for curing duck breasts. The flavor is quite powerful, especially if it’s left on for several days. I thought it would be great for the kind of fish that is prepared in thick steaks–tuna, swordfish, escolar (if you don’t have a problem eating that), or cobia (a.k.a lemonfish)–that have rich flavors, but with less time in the marinating bag.
- 3 Tbs. coriander seed
- 1 1/2 Tbs. white pepper
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 Tbs. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 3 Tbs. honey
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire
- 1 Tbs. red wine
- 4 steaks of escolar, tuna, or swordfish, about 8 oz. each
1. Combine all the ingredients except the fish in a 1-gallon food storage bag, mixing well. Add the fish to the bag and seal it. Work the marinade ingredients around in the bag so that the fish is well coated. Refrigerate for one to four hours. (The flavors will become stronger the longer you marinate.)
2. Preheat the broiler and broiler rack.
3. Place the fish, still with as much marinade as it will hold, on the broiler rack. Season with salt, and run it under the broiler for about four minutes. Turn the fish, season with salt, and broil. The fish is done when a kitchen fork jabbed into the center of the fish, then carefully touched to your lips feels just barely warm.