Louisianne’s in Middleton is a good place to go when you want to escape for a couple of hours. Descending down a twisting stairway into a grotto with rugged stone walls, curved ceilings and live jazz and blues piano feels like the adult equivalent to the secret fort you wanted to dig in your backyard. Or, at least, I did.
Although there is jambalaya on the menu and crawfish make appearances in some items, this is not the street food that New Orleans is known for. The French origins of Cajun food are seen in the many cream sauces on the menu.
Service is attentive; within minutes drinks and bread appear. On one occasion, the bread resembled dough because it was so under-baked. On another visit, it was golden and thick-crusted.
An appetizer, lemon Parmesan artichoke hearts with pine nuts ($7.50), had bright acidic notes that cut the richness of the cheese without blunting the flavors of the artichokes. Another appetizer, a crawfish cheesecake ($8) was less successful, tasting mostly of cream cheese with only a faint hint of crawfish.
Louisianne’s is known for its soups, and the crawfish chipotle tomato bisque was as good as it gets, with expertly nuanced flavors. Soups or salads are included in the price of entrees; the salads are fresh but nondescript.
Although starters and drinks arrived promptly, the wait for entrees was slow on two occasions. The best of the entrees tried was coffee chicken ($20), a breast of chicken in a creamy sauce with fettuccine, nuts, wilted greens and ground coffee beans coating the tender meat, though the taste of coffee was imperceptible. It wasn’t spicy, but the various textures made this an interesting choice.
In contrast, the pork tenderloin ($22) was fiery hot, with rice, green and red bell peppers and onions. The meat here, as well, was high quality and tender.
A scallop special one evening ($26.95) sounded wonderful, with all kinds of great ingredients: bacon, port wine and pasta (which Louisianne’s cooks perfectly). It proved to be a bit of a muddle, though, with the strong ingredients making the scallops an afterthought in terms of taste.
The menu didn’t mention that the pecan catfish ($20) would be blackened, but that’s how it arrived. The fish was fine, but the pecan crust didn’t add the crunch that would have made it special.
Dessert offerings one evening included a peanut butter pie ($6.50), which was actually a cheesecake with a thin graham cracker crust. Those who prefer intense peanut butter flavors, a la Reese’s peanut butter cups, would probably be disappointed. And those who are accustomed to good chocolate wouldn’t have enjoyed the heavy topping of super-sweet chocolate sauce, which tasted like it came out of a bottle.