From The Bayou To The Lakehouse

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris May 29, 2021 09:41 in Dining Diary

Because the weather has been so continuously bad we opted out of crossing the lake for lunch. It wasn’t as bad on the north shore as it was in New Orleans, so we ventured to Slidell in the drizzly overcast skies in search of lunch. Our plan was to go to Nathan’s, which has inexplicably resurfaced in my mind. It’s a good thing we started early, because we arrived at Nathan’s, buried in a marina on Bayou Bonfuca, and found it inaccessible. Fortunately the restaurant is on the second floor, but the parking lot of the marina was flooded, and the bayou’s banks were overflowing. Kinda scary. A woman at the bait shop downstairs shook her head, smiling a message, “I wouldn’t try it if I were you.” 

No need for the sage advice. Tom was having none of this. We turned immediately and headed home. We passed Vera’s post-Katrina home in the nondescript strip mall. They were open but didn’t look it. Sal & Judy’s didn’t look open because they weren’t. Fortunately I remembered another favorite we haven’t been to in a while. 

I am fickle and have been smitten with Pat’s Rest-A While since they opened in the last days of 2020. A mere block away, we remember Lakehouse when we pass it on the way to the new place. We love Lakehouse, but our favorite meal there was Sunday Brunch, which always reminded me of a glamorous outdoor wedding. At $33 dollars it is a steal, spread indoors and outside under big white tents. 

But COVID obliterated buffets, this one included. To be honest, we never considered any other meal here. But why? Pete Kusiw’s food is utterly delicious no matter the time of day. 

We have lately been missing the lovely Lakehouse, and have tried a few times to call and reserve. But they haven’t missed a beat and are pretty booked. Yesterday we just dropped in, and got seated outside.

I was worried as I headed down to the lakefront that the same snafu would occur with the lake overflowing its banks. There were sections of Lakeshore Drive that were flooded, but not in front of the Lakehouse. Luckily, they were open.

It was a little menacing though, as we sat down out front, to see that we were eye level to the dark and wildly-crashing lake. Very large spewing waves.

The Lakehouse used to have puzzling hours - very limited, which has happily changed. They also have a very limited menu. This too, has expanded. It is a perfect size menu now - enough choices to make it difficult, not too many to overwhelm.

We started with the Crabmeat and Brie soup, a signature item at Dakota for thirty years, and much imitated. All the also-rans were just that until this one, which I definitely prefer to the original.

Barbecue shrimp was the other appetizer. Beautifully presented with interesting cuts of French bread and dotted with fresh rosemary sprigs, this sauce was different than most. Not the clear butter of the original Pascal’s Manale, or the more complex and thicker updated Emeril’s version with Worcestershire sauce (and its own legion of imitators), Pete’s Barbecue shrimp contains cream. It is the unmistakable shrimp-color, but lighter from the cream. And the unusual way the shrimp are served (body-peeled with head and tail intact), makes it easier for the fat in the head to escape, making this a decadently rich sauce.

Pete came out to say hi, offering as he always does something special from the kitchen. Today it was the Crab Cake. This had to contain nearly a pound of crabmeat. It was a thing of beauty. Sitting atop a thin layer of corn maque choux, drizzled with remoulade and topped with arugula and a dollop of white remoulade, this very large pile of crab meat pleases, to say the least. The only detriment to this was that it was deep fried with sort of a hard shell. Cracking into the shell, gobs of crabmeat spilled out like items from an overstuffed closet when the door is opened. Who would not be excited by this?

For entrees we got a wedge salad and Tom an Amberjack filet in Meuniere Sauce with mashed potatoes and green beans.

The Amberjack dish was beautiful, the slab of fish seared with a shell of brown butter, sitting high off the plate with the mashed potatoes and green beans stacked underneath. There were onions in the pile too, and candied toasted pecan halves scattered about. The pecans had that divine buttery toasted flavor. The fish was white with big flakes, almost steak-like in its thickness. A great plate of food.

My entree proves my pure intent to behave. A wedge salad with grilled chicken. Who knew it would spiral so out of control? That’s what happens when a great chef like Pete Kusiw wants to cook for you.

The salad was gorgeous too, with two quarters of a baby bibb head of lettuce. There was feta cheese crumbled generously on top, a pile of cherry tomato halves, some pickled red onion crowning the lettuce, a smattering of fried chickpeas, and a peculiar choice of Creole mustardy remoulade sauce dressing. Fortunately, there was so little dressing it didn’t matter. Normally I would ask for more dressing had it been buttermilk or blue cheese, but I didn’t want any more of this.

The grilled chicken was perfection. A smallish breast darkly crusted with plentiful Creole seasoning, it was cut into thin slices and stacked appealingly next to the rest of the salad.

Looking at this plate I was reminded of a mild complaint Tom has always voiced about Pete Kusiw...there are too many different ingredients on a single plate. This is a plus for me, especially if the ingredients are interesting as they tend to be with Pete.

While we were gorging on this wonderful food, more wonderful food passed us over and over again. A large table near us had burgers in their order. Tall things with shiny brioche buns and piles of fresh cut fries, my to-get-next-time list grew steadily.

When the list of desserts was recited to us, I strongly suggested Tom deviate from the Creme Brulee rut he is stuck in. The waitress and I campaigned heavily for the cinnamon roll beignets. These were a delightful group of cinnamon and sugar-dusted nuggets interspersed with lengthwise slices of fresh strawberry, dusted in confectioner’s sugar, accompanied by the most divine cream cheese dipping sauce.

A home run dessert by any measure. Even I liked this, and there was no chocolate anywhere to be found. It was such a fantastic lunch! The food was excellent, service great, weather pleasant, gorgeous surroundings, and regular visits to the table with people we love. What could be better than this?

I was a little ashamed of myself for forsaking this great dining spot for its newer neighbor. And I vowed upon leaving to return here soon, and to give Pat’s Rest-A-While a rest... for awhile.