Tasty Trenasse

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris August 28, 2022 18:00 in Dining Diary

Trenasse came to town eight years ago, shattering a long-held theory of Tom’s. He always said that restaurants in hotels are not as good or as popular as stand-alone restaurants. Neither of those assertions apply here.

From the day it arrived in the Hotel Intercontinental this first-class seafood restaurant hybrid has remained true to its roots. Here are experienced and very talented restaurateurs with a knack for hiring creative talent in the kitchen to execute their delicious ideas. I call it a hybrid because Trenasse serves glamorous seafood in a restaurant whose vibe is more casual.

The look of the place reflects its name. A trenasse is one of those marsh channels that look like a maze, with tall grasses growing high enough on the sides to make the journey in a small fishing boat intimidating.

Inside, the tables and bars are made from reclaimed wood from Louisiana’s outdoors, and the food comes from our natural bounty.

Founder Jim Richard is from the Lafayette area, with all the rich culinary cultural heritage that implies. He found his way to 30-A in Florida, where he opened my favorite-named restaurant, Stinky’s Fish Camp. Stinky’s is wildly popular there, for much more than its fun name. Trenasse is a different restaurant in a different place, with the same owners and same great ideas.

For starters, they do some of the best oysters I see in a way no one else does. In the back corner of the restaurant is an oyster bar that is constantly manned. That’s not exclusive to Trenasse, but their extensive chargrilled oyster menu is. There are six different choices and different size sample platters of these delicious bivalves. They have a menu for just oysters, and a slogan of “Oysters all day all ways.” And the prices!!! I challenge anyone to find better out there.

A dozen beautiful plump raw oysters with fixins’ are only $24, but it’s the chargrilled prices that dazzle. The oyster menu starts with the Intercontinental, grilled with the signature house Champagne butter and grated Romano cheese. Smoked Gruyere and Pancetta, Shrimp and Crab Bienville, Rockefeller, Garlic Butter, and Gratin round out the oyster menu, with astonishing prices of $13-15 dollars for 6, with most of them at $13. A sampler platter of 3 each of these is only $40. It comes on a beautiful board of more reclaimed wood. A double version of 36 oysters is only $66. Oyster lovers should be regulars here. Top quality, interesting preparations, unbelievably great prices!

But it’s not only oyster lovers who will enjoy Trenasse. The menu runs the gamut from their excellent seafood dishes like shrimp and grits to steaks and chops, including the “best hamburger” the operations manager for the Food Show has ever had. In fact, he can’t stop talking about it, describing in detail the explosion of the deep-fried slice of Brie as you bite into it.

Over the years we have had a great many meals, even Eat Clubs, at Trenasse, and all of them have displayed a level of sophistication that makes me wonder how it stays under the radar. They have garnered a number of awards for their uniquely delicious approach to the food of the Gulf Coast. These dishes then make their way to the menu.

On our last visit we stopped in for Happy Hour with Stan Meadows, one of the owners and a Wednesday visitor on the Food Show. (airs weekdays 2-4 on 990 AM) When COVID hit Stan bought a luxury motor home and hit the road with his hound dog buddy L.W., adding another canine friend Franco along the way. He reports on his adventures across the fruited plain, whether it’s the Tamale Trail in Mississippi or the Chokecherry Festival in Wyoming, Stan is out there experiencing food as the locals do, and we love to hear about it.

We went in June, and Trenasse had just posted some new Best Of awards from NOWFE. Stan let us try them, but we started with a few oldies-but-goodies. The Fowl Gumbo arrived on the menu as a post-NOWFE victory years ago, and it is as delicious as ever . Rich and full of flavor from chicken but also duck confit, this delectable version of a local classic includes housemade andouille and is served over popcorn rice. An absolute ten. 

But it is tough to choose between this and another prize-winner, the Blue Crab Bisque, replete with blue crab in sherry cream. Then we had this year’s winner, which was grilled peaches with beef “bacon.” Beef belly shares some characteristics with pork belly, and Trenasse has highlighted these similarities. The combination of sweet and spicy flavors, and the contrasting textures of Abita Root Beer-braised meat and soft peaches made this as interesting a dish as it was an explosion of taste. 

Even though we were there to try their Happy Hour, we had to get some oysters. The Sampler Platter came to the table and it absolutely excited us. Just the idea that all those oysters in all those preparations was all yours is a thrill. The Intercontinental, with the Trenasse signature Champagne Butter and Romano is the simplest, and is purely delicious. We loved the smoked Gruyere and Pancetta. The combination of an assertive cheese and the bacon made a statement. This was definitely the “most substantial” of the assortment. Who doesn’t love Rockefeller? As expected here, it was a good version of the classic flavor. We also liked the shrimp and Bienville. Bienville has always been my preferred version of these two local favorite preparations, but I was surprised to learn Tom actually prefers it too. The Trenasse version of the classic includes shrimp and crab, and it is a nice added touch. Rounding out this generous platter are the classic Garlic Butter and also the Gratin, a simple butter and bread crumb mixture. There were some fried oysters interspersed with the others, making for a presentation that, as I said, is downright exciting.

It’s a good thing we went for small appetizer portions at Happy Hour because the oyster platter is filling. Still, we pressed on. We started with the Boudin Bites, which I think may also be the best version of these anywhere. The boudin is of course housemade, lightly dusted with panko crumbs and perfectly fried. These are served with a five pepper jelly and smoked jalapeno Rouille, as well as housemade pickles.

We had to have a double batch of these.

Another item on the Happy Hour menu is Gulf Fish Popcorn with a Meuniere sauce. Small pieces of crispy fried fish come in a basket and are gone in minutes. Popcorn is a great name for this delectable treat.

We also got Unca Duke’s BBQ Shrimp, which is a generous portion of three very large shrimp in a rich sauce, served with grilled French bread. This is everything you’d want BBQ shrimp to be. I’m not a fan of extra large shrimp, but I happily cut these into three pieces each and savored every bite.

Stan had a sample platter of all the desserts here sent out, and it included Creme Brulee, Bread Pudding with candied pecans and caramel sauce, Beignets with caramel foam, and a Chocolate Tart in a brown butter graham crust with blackberry curd and whipped cream. Tom eats all of those kinds of desserts besides the chocolate one, and he did consume nearly all of the other three, raving as he went along. The chocolate tart was decadently divine, very dark chocolate with an added richness from the blackberry curd. All of that was offset quite nicely by the whipped cream. This may have been the best version of a chocolate tart I have ever had, certainly in any restaurant.

Any piece about Trenasse would be incomplete without mentioning the Crawfish Pie, their absolute signature item. This is worth a trip to the restaurant all by itself. My complaint about crawfish pies is that they sound like a great idea, but it is hard to find a good one. If you are into crawfish pies, here is the absolute definitive version. It is the crawfish pie of your dreams.

There are two sizes, one appetizer and one entree size. I have gotten both but find that I want more of this if I get the smaller version. Fair warning, this is not for the faint of spice. The Trenasse crawfish pie is really, really spicy and one gigantic mouthful. It is creamy, full of crawfish and vegetables spilling out of a flaky crust. It is served with an extra napping of sauce over delicious grits.

The crawfish pie at Trenasse is the perfect signature dish. It embodies the very spirit of the place. This restaurant celebrates the bounty of the area by elevating it to gourmet levels. The food is sophisticated and nuanced, but it is served in a way that is approachable and friendly. If we lived closer we’d be there once a week.