A Tale Of Two Bistros

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris August 06, 2020 09:51 in Dining Diary

After running out of options in the northshore of places close to home in our narrow pre-radio show window, we found our way to a place Tom had declared dead to him about ten years ago.

In his feistier days, Bistro Byronz just offended Tom. Its chain look (it is) immediately repelled Tom, and we went once and declared it wholly unworthy. 

I always liked the look, sort of a brasserie, if a very fake one. The food was straight American ordinary.

I had the same feeling sitting there recently, until Tom observed that it seemed out of the Eighties. That ruined it for me because I had to admit it did look spiffy, but dated. 

When the food arrived Tom was much more enthusiastic. He ordered fried eggplant and I got spin dip. The house chips seem a “thing” because you can get them with bacon and blue cheese, so I asked if they were house cut. The waiter explained that yes, they were, but not at this house. The commissary cuts them and they come in frozen and are fried on site. When they came to the table they would have fooled me if I hadn’t asked. These were served with the spinach and artichoke dip which was not good enough to get again. The chips, on the other hand, will certainly get ordered again with that bacon and blue cheese.

Tom got a rainbow trout entree with an option for a half portion, since he had just eaten all the eggplant sticks. These were very good, cut into one inch square widths. Nicely fried with a mediocre red sauce, with a good dusting of parmesan, these were good enough to get me, and I am not usually a fan of this dish. 

We were both pretty full after these appetizers, but we pressed on to another course. The half portion of the trout was pan-seared and flanked by two small spears of asparagus and a small potato cake that was crusted with breadcrumbs and deep fried. Tom really enjoyed this, but he was a little disappointed by the woodsiness of the asparagus. (He always says that. Maybe he just doesn’t really like asparagus.)

The burger came to the table as a dead ringer for the one at Houston’s. Piled high with dressings, it was cut in half and held together with toothpicks. Shreds of iceberg lettuce spilled out of the sides, the thin layer of mayo oozing out just a bit. A plentiful layer of pickles made it just right. It had the grill marks and was cooked right, but I just couldn't get away from the sight that the patty was almost too perfectly formed. It’s different from the Houston burger in that the Houston burger looks great and is great. The Bistro Byronz burger looks great but isn’t. And the accompanying fries were nothing like the earlier chips. These were ordinary at best.

With two courses each it was decided to skip dessert. It was show time anyway.

The very next day we went to another bistro, this one on the south shore. Bistro Orleans is a new advertiser on the radio show (airs live weekdays 2-4pm on WGSO 990 AM). And we were glad to be able to say that here is a seafood boat, an almost mythical New Orleans dish that has become increasingly hard to find. The seafood boat is a loaf of white bread sliced sideways and loaded with fried seafood. This is an impressive thing of beauty, especially if you like large amounts of seafood.

Chef Archie Saurage and the Food Show go back a long way, and the place has been the site of many an Eat Club gathering. What is most striking about this place, besides the clever oyster bar made of oyster shells, is the menu, which is really extensive and filled with an eclectic mix of Louisiana classics, some with an interesting spin.

Fried foods of all varieties, cream sauces that run the gamut, poor boys and pastas, and chargrilled oysters. Here is a perfect example of the best restaurant problem to have - a menu so appealing it’s hard to decide what to get. But we went with a mission, and an immovable idea what to get.

We started with two kinds of chargrilled oysters, which come in an unusual preparation. They are piled high on a cast iron grill which is then set into a wood platter. This comes with a whole small loaf of bread perched on one side. This makes quite the impression as it comes into the dining room, with a trail of smoke and a loud sizzle like the commotion caused by fajitas.

We went for the regular version of chargrilled oysters and one of their special versions like bacon and pepperjack cheese. The basic chargrilled didn’t have a lot of “stuff” on them, but the flavor was very good. The specialty oysters were replete with bacon and the melted pepper jack made for a great blend of flavors and texture. We could have eaten another whole round of these.

We upgraded from fries to house cut onion rings. These were too thick for my taste but they were indeed cut in the back. The seafood boat was actually a combo fish and shrimp boat, but for a slight upcarge we had all three seafoods. This is one of the original places to bring Des Allemands wild caught catfish into the market. It was cornmeal fried and crisp and hot. There was enough of this for three people. I felt inadequate when our waitress explained that there was a regular customer that picks up the entire boat and eats it like a sandwich.

We looked at the substantial list of homemade desserts here, making dessert just as big a decision as the rest of the too-appealing menu. We passed though. The seafood boat is a lot of food. And we have to make another trip to try one of those cream sauces.