Cafe Vermilionville: Incredible food, worth the drive

Cafe Vermilionville in Lafayette exudes a rich ambiance from the inviting big front porch of the historic two-story building to the newer dining room added to the back of the original structure. Once you are seated, the wall of differently shaped, architecturally interesting windows draws the eye to the beautifully landscaped patio area and the wonderful muted music hits just the right note. As the sun sets, lights appear in the garden and candles are lit on the white-clothed tables.

The service at the restaurant was top notch. Our waiter was charming, answered all of our questions knowledgeably and the wait staff anticipated every need without being intrusive.

And then there was the food. From the appetizers to the desserts the food was incredible. The menu is divided into two pages. The first page has the starters, soups, salads and entrees our waiter said their customers won’t let them change, and the second page has newer creations from the kitchen, along with seasonal fare. We ordered from both pages but leaned more on the side of the favorites. We could see why customers won’t let them go.

We really liked the cafe sampler for two ($14), a bite-sized combination of crawfish beignets sitting on a wonderful mustard aioli, bacon wrapped garlic shrimp, fried alligator tenderloin, battered and fried pickles, and sliced grilled Cajun sausage. Everything was delicious and presented in a pleasing minimalist fashion. Our other appetizer was the black-eyed pea cake ($12). While delicious, this dish is dense and the two burger sized cakes should be shared or eaten as an entree. The well cooked peas were perfectly seasoned with wonderful bits of smoky tasso, shaped into cakes, fried and topped with a sweet and spicy green tomato jam.

The two soups we tried were a big hit, in fact, the sweet, rich and creamy roasted corn and crab bisque ($7) was one person’s favorite dish. The deep dark brown smoked turkey and andouille gumbo ($7) was smoky and good and a great combination of complex flavors and spices.

The steak Louis XIII ($38) featured a six-ounce perfectly cooked filet mignon finished with a wild mushroom demi-glace and crawfish mornay sauce. The demi-glace, which our waiter said is reduced over two days, was so delicious almost anything would taste good topped with it, not to mention a delicious piece of tender steak. The crawfish tails and mornay were also quite good. This plate came with mashed potatoes and asparagus.

The 16-ounce grilled ribeye royale ($36) was also perfectly cooked. This large, tender, juicy steak came with roasted red potatoes and asparagus.

We also loved the gulf fish Acadien ($30), again from the traditional side of the menu. A wonderful plate of pan-seared black drum, fresh lump crab meat, roasted corn and peppers, parmesan risotto and a lemon dill beurre blanc. Mixing these layers of tastes together in one bite was a wonderful combination of just-right flavors and textures. This also came with steamed asparagus.

We agree with the customers who would not let Cafe Vermilionville take these items off the menu, but the roasted quail ($27) from page two probably isn’t going anywhere either. The two tender quail were stuffed with mashed sweet potatoes and lavender and served with honey braised mustard greens seasoned with pancetta and finished with a rosemary citrus vinaigrette and seated on a cornbread round. You could really taste the lavender in the meat but it wasn’t overpowering — just enough to give it a wonderful fresh flavor. The greens and cornbread were the perfect partner.

When our waiter brought the dessert cart he said the restaurant’s desserts were all made in-house by the same person for more than 20 years, which reinforces the adage that practice makes perfect. The white chocolate bread pudding ($6.95) was warm and wonderful. The bananas Foster cheesecake ($6.25) was a delicious version of the traditional dessert, and we loved the fresh bananas mixed in with the rich cake.

Our desserts were a great ending to a delightful meal and well worth the drive across the Atchafalaya Basin.