New Boutin’s serves up authentic Cajun cuisine

Never get in an argument over where to find the best Cajun food in Louisiana, especially if you’re talking with someone who says, “My mamma makes the best gumbo anywhere.” Keeping that in mind, we dropped by Boutin’s on Howell Place, just minutes from the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.

While the new restaurant doesn’t have a dance floor and live band playing authentic Cajun and zydeco music, it does have the same food as the restaurant at the Bluebonnet Boulevard location. While it may not be your mama’s, it is authentic.

We admired the restaurant’s layout, which is designed to accommodate north Baton Rouge patrons as well as people arriving and departing from the airport. Just off the entrance is a convenient steam table set up for lunch Monday through Friday, and you can select hot meals to go quickly. There’s also a refrigerator with cold drinks and pre-packaged frozen meats and sausages from Poche’s Market in Breaux Bridge. A small bar tucked in one corner is a quiet spot to just relax or possibly wait for a delayed flight.

Go for a more relaxed meal in the dining area that features comfortable tables and booths. Colorful photographs and prints on the walls pay homage to Louisiana musicians, and background music features lively Cajun and jazz tunes.

A cup of excellent seafood gumbo ($5.95) started our lunch. The small bowl was very filling. Made with a medium roux, the broth was loaded with shrimp, crawfish, oysters and bits of sausage along with onions, green pepper and celery. It’s extremely flavorful, but heavy on the cayenne pepper. Our friends from Ohio would not be able to swallow the broth past the first fiery spoonful. Our Cajun neighbors would lap it up.

The seafood platter ($16.95 at lunch) was large enough to serve two or three people. It contained a large stuffed crab, large stuffed bell pepper, fried butterflied shrimp, fried fish, oysters, fried crawfish and a big helping of fried potatoes. The fried fish, coated in an excellent crispy cornmeal batter, was tender and flaky on the interior. Fried with skins, the delicious potato wedges were dusted with a spicy Cajun seasoning. The platter also comes with Cajun rice and maque choux, the popular southern side dish with sweet corn kernels sautéed with a hint of tomatoes, green pepper, onion and bits of ham.

The crawfish enchilada ($10.95) featured a flour tortilla filled with a mixture of finely minced crawfish, onions and peppers, rolled and smothered in a copious amount of very cheesy mornay sauce. The sauce, which tasted like chili flavored processed cheese, caused the tortilla’s texture to become soggy. A corn tortilla would make this a much better dish. Mixed steamed vegetables lent a healthy touch to the meal.

Boutin’s at Howell Boulevard is equally pleasant during evening meals. While known for its Louisiana seafood, the restaurant also offers steak entrees. The marinated eight- to nine-ounce filet mignon ($19.95) was grilled medium rare to perfection. The meat was juicy and tender with only a slight amount of fat. The plate included a half stuffed baked potato, accented with bacon, finely chopped onions and bits of ham. The steak also came with corn maque choux and Cajun rice. The crabmeat eggplant ($15.95), one of the specialties of the house, is complete indulgence. The luscious dish features a large grilled crab cake topped with a breaded and grilled eggplant medallion and smothered with a creamy Alfredo white sauce loaded with lump crabmeat and covered with a substantial amount of shredded parmesan cheese. The buttery white sauce, seasoned with parsley and a hint of garlic, was mild with just enough pepper to add spark to the dish.

Salad lovers should make a point of trying the large zydeco salad ($15.95). As bodacious as south Louisiana’s music, it has a zing all its own. A bed of crisp, cold iceberg lettuce is topped with seasoned and spicy grilled shrimp, blackened fish, chicken and smoky grilled andouille sausage. Added to this were several slices of tomato, hard-boiled eggs and green pepper along with crunchy croutons. The salad can easily make a meal for two. Choose from your favorite dressings, but we suggest both the creamy house remoulade and the zesty honey mustard dressings.

The restaurant offers several desserts, including bread pudding, but we tried one of Poche’s small pecan pies, which easily serves two. Made with brown sugar, light corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and fresh Louisiana pecans, this southern treat is a sweet ending to any Cajun meal.

Boutin’s wait staff is friendly and helpful. They willingly fill your special requests and make sure your water and tea glasses are kept filled to the brim.