Foodie Field Trip : ACADIANA

March 3, 2011 By The Foodies

Foodie Field Trip went ‘down the Baya’ (Louisianan for Bayou) to DC’s Acadiana for a modern interpretation of Louisiana’s Cajun, Creole and Southern cooking. Bayou Country natives have many local traditions that you could compare to that age-old debate about whose mom makes the best apple pie. Resident Foodie (and Louisianan) Loralei is no exception. Suffice it to say, Chefs Tunks and Tesky had their work cut out for them in their quest to render adaptations of original recipes that will please Louisiana natives and DC locals alike.

Owner Chef Jeff Tunks is a culinary rockstar, with prestigious awards such as the Culinary Institute of the Arts Frances L. Roth Award, and recognition by Wine Spectator and The New York Times for his creations with the Passion Food Restaurant Group. Acadiana is Tunks’ ode to the New Orleans fish houses he frequented while living there.

Acadiana’s Chef de Cuisine, Chef Brant Tesky, supports the growing trend to use local farm fresh produce when possible, but Acadiana’s fish is Gulf raised. Tesky explained that while the 2010 oil spill impacted Gulf fish prices it didn’t diminish quality. Louisiana cooking is not just about seafood, however, and FFT enjoyed discovering its variety.

The packed bar was the source of our early gem, a worth every penny Bourbon Fizz cocktail.  It is a smooth, buttery blend of bourbon, praline liqueur and club soda, perfectly accented by a hint of lime juice used to rim the glass with crunchy cracked caramelized sugar.

While marveling over the Bourbon Fizz an Amuse Bouche arrived. The single crisp, tart, fried green tomato slice, topped by a chilled Zatarain’s spiced boiled gulf shrimp and a tomato-based rémoulade was an interesting start. Unlike a traditional white rémoulade, Tunks’ version is closer in style to a cocktail sauce.

Much like Louisianans, each Acadiana appetizer has a story. Crispy “Gas Station” pork Boudin Balls are a specialty commonly found in Louisiana gas stations. Tunks’ version has a mildly-flavored, dressing-like filling made with boudin sausage and a crispy fried exterior, served with zingy creole mustard. It is lighter on the sausage than a typical Boudin Ball but will still be a familiar dish to those who know the original.

Deviled eggs are a Louisiana crab boil or barbeque staple. Acadiana’s are rich, and have the foundation of any good comfort food. They’re boiled perfectly and filled with crab ravigote, cheddar and bacon and caviar, fillings that change periodically.

The charbroiled oysters are reminiscent of oysters Rockefeller, minus the spinach, with the wonderful sharpness of Romano cheese baked on to plump Gulf oysters.

Swimming in a pool of garlic butter, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce, New Orleans style barbeque shrimp are popular at Acadiana and were a FFT hit. No sides need accompany this dish, as French bread shipped from Louisiana is a perfect sponge for the extra sauce.

The Blackened Redfish is well balanced – very lightly seasoned to allow the flavor of the fish to shine through amid the creamed spinach, cheesy, fried grit cakes and garnish of thick crawfish etouffee.

Acadiana uses veal medallions to create a more upscale version of the Louisiana favorite, Grillades & Grits. Some would argue that grits are thick; in this case saucy jalapeno cheese grits work well with tender veal, drizzled in wild mushroom pan gravy. The dish was a pleasant departure from the more Cajun and Creole inspired entrees we sampled.

Now on to dessert. Chef Tesky explained that Acadiana fries their beignets longer for a darker, thicker crust and uses less powdered sugar to appeal to the DC crowd. Replicating Café du Monde is not the goal. But in this instance, we may have preferred they copy the original a little more closely.

Acadiana is not where you find your Na’nan’s (godmother in Cajun) cooking, but you will have a pleasant meal that is inspired by the spices and textures of Acadian cooking.

Acadiana: 901 New York Ave. NW, DC; 202-404-8848,