Friday, January 13, 2012

Roberto's River Road Restaurant

Sunshine, Louisiana (St. Gabriel)
Roberto's River Road Restaurant is nestled inside a little 1850's building that faces the levee of the Mississippi River. It used to be the J.J. LaPlace & Sons general store, but now welcomes customers for some local Southern dining. Roberto's is currently one of fourteen restaurants around the Greater Baton Rouge Area that are a part of Slow Food, a group of establishments that provide Louisiana Seafood and regularly purchase ingredients from regional farms to support the local economy.

As I walked into the restaurant I immediately noticed the rustic Southern facade. It is kind of hard to describe actually. Roberto's seemed kind of eerie but with a slight hint of elegance. Elegant enough to call it "classy" I'd say. But, that's all besides the point. In my opinion, while dining casually, the focal points should be the food and the company that you're with. The service and atmosphere are always the bonus, but at a good restaurant, they usually tend to come hand in hand. On this day, we were celebrating the 24th birthday of my friend Sarah. We took over the main room with a sixteen topper, and fortunately the place wasn't so busy and the food was great.

My friends and I get seated and look at the appetizing menu. My friend and I decide to split two appetizers so we opted for the Crab and Brie soup and the New Orleans style BBQ Shrimp and Grits.
If you're not familiar with New Orleans style BBQ shrimp, the shrimp never hit the surface of a grill nor does it touch any form of a BBQ sauce. So why is it actually called BBQ shrimp? Beats me, I don't have the slightest clue. That's just how it has always been. It's prepared more into a heavily spiced butter sauce with a lot of garlic and herbs. Fortunately the shrimp came peeled so it saved me the mess. The grits weren't the traditional grits either. It came in a deep fried cake form with a very crispy crust and yet very moist on the inside, similar to the tenderness of a Sara Lee pound cake. The shrimp and grits were very spicy though, just the way I like it, but maybe not to those who are daunted by the Southern heat. I even started sweating a little on my nose. Loved it.

The Crab and Brie soup was very creamy and surprisingly not as "crabby" as I thought it was going to be. Typically, when cooking with seafood in soups and stews, the flavor that packs the most punch tends to overpower everything else. So, it's mainly the quantity that you have to control. They prepared the soup very nicely. The only problem was the amount of crab shell in it, I don't really have a problem picking it out, but the judges on Top Chef may have something to say about it.

For the entrees, there was a small variety of what you can choose from, but that was expected because they only get what's available on the day. I decided to go for the catch of the day, Black Drum, and order it en papillote.

En papillote is literally translated to "in parchment" in French. This is a class French technique where the fish is nested with herbs and a little bit of liquid whether it may be just water or a white wine, and wrapped so it can steam itself in the oven.

The Black Drum came topped with jumbo lump crab meat and creamy buttered mashed potatoes and steamed squash and zucchini on the side. The package contained a sprig of rosemary, thyme, a slice of lemon and salt and pepper. The fish was cooked perfectly, I didn't have any signs of hardening on any pieces of the filet while eating it. Hardening on parts of the fish tends to happen when it's over cooked and the moisture gets drained out of it. I've never cooked a fish en papillote, but I'd imagine that it's pretty hard to dry a fish out this way. The crab accentuated the Drum very well, but I would've liked to have a little more heat to it. It probably didn't help that I ordered quite possibly the hottest appetizer there was. Overall, I was very happy with what I got. The mashed potatoes were actually pleasantly creamier than I expected, it too was very good.

Dessert came on a whim, we all thought we couldn't eat any more but the Mardi Gras Bread Pudding with a hot rum sauce screamed, "EAT ME NOW!" We ordered a few for the table with extra spoons. If you're not a cinnamon lover, then I'll tell you this right now, you're not going to enjoy it. I have a hard time taking in heavy doses of cinnamon myself. This little serving contained enough cinnamon to make me almost not like it,  albeit that it was still very good for a dessert. It wasn't overly sweet but it did leave a little fire in my mouth.

I was very happy with my first time at Roberto's. The waitstaff was great, our drinks would always stay full without even noticing them doing it. That's a sign of knowing that you're having a great time. The complimentary bread was delicious and they have a decent wine selection. They also have a fully stocked bar in the back. I do plan on coming back one day, and do recommend newcomers here. I find it very hard to believe that I only heard of this place last week, even though I have lived in Baton Rouge for nearly twenty two years! My meal ended up costing about 43 dollars on the night, but prices are always subject to change without notice. I hope that whoever comes here has as good of a time that my friends and I did.

Roberto's River Road Restaurant - 1985 Highway 75, Sunshine, Louisiana
Slow Food Baton Rouge -
Roberto's River Road Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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