By Mario Pacetti
A couple of weeks ago, Chelsea and I decided to have our date night at Lillie’s at the Golden Nugget. The only place at the Nugget we were fond of was the Country Club. But it’s changed management and it’s name to Chart House at The Country Club recently, and we really haven’t eaten there much. But I think that will be changing.
I chose Lillie’s because I’d read an article about the woman who oversees the operations for the place and I decided to give it a go.
Now, our two favorite Asian restaurants in town have some amazing sushi, and that’s really the main reason we go to them. But we decided not to order any sushi at Lillie’s and instead just check out the menu.
The first dish we ordered was the Avocado and Tuna Tartar. The dish is very simple; it consists of a marinated spicy tuna, avocado, carrots and shrimp chips. The tuna simply melted in my mouth, given how tender it was. It had just the right amount of spiciness; it left an amazing flavor in my mouth.
Now, I could have eaten a plate full of the tuna all by itself. But when you added the avocado and the neat shrimp chips … It was a great all-around dish.
The first of our two entrées was Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio. It consisted of a charbroiled boneless pork chop, vermicelli noodles, egg rolls, iceberg lettuce, fried shallots, roasted peanuts, green onions and cilantro. The dish came with a bowl of slightly warm broth that the waitress said had a strong fish flavor. You just pour it on the dish and mix it in. Let me tell you what — this was a badass dish and I was blown away that every ingredient worked together to make it taste amazing. It was like a soup salad with noodles in it. As crazy as that may sound, it just simply worked! I’d have a bite of an eggroll at the same time as I’d have the wet lettuce. The textures all married right together.
I can’t count how many times I’ve talked about this dish and am very much looking forward to having it again.
We were lucky enough to have both entrees kick ass. The Chilean Sea Bass was seared to absolute perfection. And if that wasn’t enough, it was topped with pan-fried lump crab cake. It had a side of tempura-fried haricot verts, which are simply long green beans. I was eating the green beans with my fingers as though they were finger foods, which was probably out of place. But I really didn’t care, because the fork simply wasn’t getting them to my mouth fast enough.
I love sea bass, and you don’t get it very often in this area. To find a place that takes a great fish and makes it even better is quite a treat. I would put that crab cake up against that of anyone in town any day of the week. It had a great crab flavor, but it wasn’t so strong that it became a distraction.
I’m not a gambler, so my only attraction to the casinos is food, concerts and the pools. So it’s nice when you can add another food section to the mix. Lillie’s will definitely get put into the restaurant rotation.
When I was younger, growing up in SWLA, we really only had a few different choices of styles of food. There were Asian restaurants, but they toned their menus down to cater to the demographic they were serving. Even our Italian spots didn’t get way out there with some Italians dishes you’ll see these days. So it’s great to see so many places bringing authentic dishes to their menus. Never would I have thought we would have some of the best sushi around, or Indo-Pak cuisine, or a real food truck scene, but we do now. Lake Charles now has restaurants like Calla, 1910, Raj, Toga’s, El Tap, Sloppy’s — to name just a few — that are really putting us on the map as a place that isn’t just known for fried fish, gumbo and crawfish, but is a real culturally infused food scene. I simply love it.
In future columns, I’ll be checking out Weenie Dogs’ new location, the Bodega on Country Club road and Toga’s new expanded location, which looked great when I took a peek in. I’m also beyond excited about the new Kroger on Country Club. I can’t express how happy I am to drive from Moss Bluff all the way south of town to finally be able to get some real variety with our grocery shopping. I felt like a kid going to Toys R Us for the first time and I can’t wait until we need to go again.
On a closing note, if you have read my column over the last four years, you know I do my absolute best never to say harsh or over-critical things about restaurants, as I know the struggle involved in this industry. So there are times when I have meals and have absolutely nothing good to say; so I don’t write anything. I try hard to make sure I have enough places to review so that if I do have a bad experience, that won’t leave me with nothing to give to the readers.