Sunday, February 12, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

There once was a good Cajun restaurant in Hermosa Beach. The owner and all of the wait staff were affable, the chef was talented and the Ragin' Cajun customers were happy (and plentiful.)

And then, darkness struck. The property owner decided to more or lest oust the Ragin' Cajun owner and install his own son instead and with a different type of food entirely.

The Ragin' Cajun owner vowed to find a new location and searched the new-ish El Segundo Plaza. His former customers sighed in relief.

But there was no space available/affordable. In disgust, the Cajun owner threw up his hands and said, "The hell with being in a building - I'll drive my own food truck!" And, henceforth, he did.

And then Richie read that the Redondo Beach high school was having a charity food truck gala with such as Babe's Bad-Ass Burgers, the Grilled Cheese Truck and the Ragin' Cajun truck! Hot damn! we shouted and set off. But there the Ragin' Cajun wasn't.

We defaulted and went to New Orleans Cajun and Creole, Hermosa Beach, instead. It's in a corner building and the interior is long and narrow with a counter running along the left wall in front of the bar/kitchen and tables for four all down the right wall. "Squiggily jazz" (no discernible theme or tune) played rather loudly for my taste. But when the food arrived, I never heard it again. That's how blown away I was by the food.

The maitre'd was friendly and welcoming. We started with a half order of hush puppies ($4) and ate them while we waited for Richie's 3/4ths of a bowl of Ultimate Gumbo - two kinds of sausage, tasso ham, chicken, shrimp, crab and vegetables, white rice ($25; full bowl is $27) and my Fried Crawfish Po' Boy ($17.)

The gumbo arrived in a thick bowl that was easily as big as a wash basin. My sandwich, served open face, was a split, toasted length of baguette, fully dressed with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato slices and approximately 30+ fried crawfish. It looked like a Mountain of Crawfish...The Cajun steak fries were cooked to near transparency and lightly seasoned, probably with a bit of cayenne and black pepper.

We were seated right across from chef/proprietor Casandra Epuna and every now and then she would gaze over at us and solicitously ask, "How's it going, baby?" nodding at the food. We had to grin (teeth closed) and nod back because our mouths were full.

When Richie asked for a take-out container for the other half of the soup, she inspected it and added a bit of the broth "to even things out," she said. That struck me as impressive ... that she cared enough about her food to send it home as a leftover, but as perfectly as she could make it.
Richie had gumbo for dinner and found he has enough leftover for lunch today to further explain the portions and how good it is -- you can happily eat three meals in a row of it. He is not a dainty eater either. (Not by a long shot.)

Now we have the best of two good things -- rolling Cajun and rock-solid restaurant Cajun. We can live happily ever after ...

NEW ORLEANS CAJUN & CREOLE, 140 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach 310-372-8970 Open Thurs. to Monday lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. till...

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