• Tommy Centola

Ultimate New Orleans Crab Dinner

While making crab cakes, I started to think of all of the great crabmeat dishes in New Orleans restaurants. I wondered how fun it would be to do a seven course crab dinner by visiting various restaurants in the city and eat the ultimate crab dinner. My first stop would be at Galatoire’s for their Crabmeat Canape Lorenzo. This often overlooked appetizer is a combination of crabmeat and Hollandaise sauce on top of toast. To me, it is the best way to start a meal at Galatoire’s. Next stop is down the street to the Bourbon House. The dish here is the Crab Fingers Bordelaise. They fry crab claws and top them with a great New Orleans Bordelaise sauce, which is a combination of butter, garlic and lemon juice. Staying in the neighborhood, the next stop would be at the Palace Café for their Crabmeat Cheesecake. The cheesecake is topped with a Meuniere sauce with Mushrooms and sautéed Crab Claws. This dish was my first experience with a savory cheesecake. I have not eaten a better cheesecake than this one. The next dish requires a little travel. On the Westbank in Avondale, you will find Mosca’s restaurant. The first time you see the white shack, no way will you believe that a great restaurant is inside. The next dish on our menu is the marinated Crab Salad. On a bed of mixed greens, you will find a great amount of crabmeat marinated in a Creole Italian sauce. Our next stop brings us back to the French Quarter to Brennen’s. The dish to get here is the Buster Crabs Béarnaise. A Buster Crab is a crab on the verge of molting, but taken from the water before it does. The shell is removed by hand, usually resulting in the loss of the legs and claws. At Brennen’s, they sauté the crabs then top them with their classic Béarnaise sauce. Our final two dishes are from the entrée section of the menus and they both have a similar element. The first dish is the Crabmeat au Gratin from the Bon Ton restaurant. This dish is so good; it was featured on an episode of Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. Chef John Besh presented this creamy and cheesy dish to foodies everywhere. Our final dish is from the menu of Drago’s. Their Crab Cake Platter features a Crab and Shrimp cake topped with a Crabmeat au Gratin sauce. They serve this with Linguini so you can eat all of the sauce. While this would be a great meal, I don’t think anyone could eat all of this in the course of a dinner.

While these dishes are, in my opinion, the best crabmeat dishes available, they would not be on the best New Orleans Crabmeat dishes of all time. My all time 7 course crab dinner would start with Crabmeat Ravioli from La Riviera. Chef Goffredo Fraccaro created this dish for the Crab Olympics in San Francisco in 1980. Of course, he took first prize. His reasoning was that his momma put everything in ravioli; so why not crabmeat. It is sad that the restaurant never reopened after Katrina.  Our next dish is from the closed restaurant the Andrew Jackson. Located down the street from Mr B’s Bistro, the Andrew Jackson’s best appetizer was the Crabmeat Lafitte. This dish is a lot like the Crabmeat Canape Lorenzo, consisting of crabmeat and Hollandaise sauce. From there, we move to Bella Luna. A beautiful restaurant with a spectacular view of the river, Bella Luna never reopened after Katrina. Their Crab cakes with Ancho Remoulade sauce was a great appetizer. You will be able to find a version of our next dish at the restaurant that opened in its place. Christian’s restaurant was a Mid City landmark. The restaurant in a converted church was known for their Smoked Soft Shell Crabs. After being smoked, the crab was fried and topped with brown butter. The restaurant Redemption has reopened in Christian’s church and is offering an almost exact copy of the Smoked Soft Shell Crab. For the next three dishes, we head to the area of town I grew up in, the Westbank. Our first stop would be at Berdou’s restaurant for Crabmeat Berdou. The best dish here was a crabmeat casserole made with a good amount of garlic. This great little restaurant was one of the first great restaurants I remember eating at. To no surprise, my last two dishes are from the best restaurant I ever ate at, LeRuth’s.  If you have followed my blog, you know that my first job was at LeRuth’s. While there may be a little bias on my part, most people who have eaten there agree that it was one of the best, if not the best, restaurants in New Orleans. The two final dishes of this fantasy crab meat dinner are the Soft Shell Crabs with Crabmeat menuiere sauce and the Crabmeat St. Francis. The soft shell crabs have been copied at other restaurants but never perfected. After frying the soft shell crab, an enormous amount of crabmeat was placed on top, then covered with menuiere sauce. The first time I had this dish; it was topped with a pound of Lump Crabmeat. The last dish is, in my opinion, the best crab dish I have ever eaten, Crabmeat St. Francis. The crabmeat was topped with a rich peppery sauce. To make it even richer, a tablespoon of melted butter was added on top before it was served. I have never eaten a better crabmeat dish.

You can find some of the recipes for these no longer available dishes on previous blog post. I have enjoyed these dishes almost as much as I remember eating them in the restaurants. Since crabmeat is available throughout the country, anyone can recreate many of these dishes. Give them a try and eat a little piece of New Orleans culinary history.

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