710 Dr. Michael DeBakey Drive • Lake Charles
Whenever I venture out to eat with the intent of writing about my experience, I often do so without a heads-up or notice and I rarely make reservations. I like the experience to be as organic and natural as possible. However, for a special occasion, I do prefer to secure a table for me and my wife at a specific time without having a delay or even the possibility of not being able to be seated.
Not too long ago, if someone wanted to make reservations, he’d typically have to call the restaurant during hours of operation and request a time slot, which would be jotted down in the reservation book. This method does still exist. However, in today’s technological world, making a reservation is as simple as sending a digital message at any time. As the person responsible for the venue’s social media posts and interactions logs in, they are able to respond, confirm or adjust, and you have a recoverable transcript. A “lost” reservation can be an inconvenience and embarrassing moment for both the restaurant and the party expecting to be seated.
Early in the week, I sent an after-hours reservation request to The James 710 for the upcoming Saturday evening for a party of two. The next day, I received confirmation and our date was set. My wife and I had 7:30 pm reservations.
The restaurant’s building had originated as a niche marketplace, specializing in foods, ingredients and services you would not normally find in one of our area grocers. Unfortunately, the pandemic claimed this business. However, the closed business became an opportunity for a new restaurant.
The James 710, the latest release in what’s become Bennie Herrera’s trilogy, is another departure from his 121 Artisan Bistro and Restaurant Calla. The James 710 commands its own identity with a varietal cuisine in a beautiful setting.
Walking inside, you’ll see a large, spacious dining room with primarily soft white paints accented by muted blues and hardwoods throughout. The open kitchen concept is seen to the left. A beautiful swanky bar towers from the rear. Through one door, a covered outdoor dining area with stained horizontal fencing, planter boxes and ambient lighting can be seen.
Since the cold front had settled in, this was a perfect opportunity for comfortable fall-like outdoor dining.
My wife and I were led to a table and informed we had the option of using a paper menu or a scannable code. Our server for the evening, Paige, introduced herself. Starting with our cocktails, one in particular sounded so appealing we couldn’t pass it up. The spicy cucumber margarita, with a seasoned and salt-rimmed glass, contained freshly squeezed cucumber juice, muddled jalapeño, orange juice, Cointreau, a fresh jalapeño slice suspended atop the ice and a wedge of lime.
The first thing we noted was the aroma from the cucumber. We took a lick of the seasoning and tasted a sip. The nose fools you, as the heat from the jalapeño is present on the tongue, followed by the welcomed coolness of the cucumber.
As we scrolled our devices for appetizer options, we found ourselves torn between the crispy Brussels sprouts and the blue crab au gratin, but winded up opting for kimchi fries and a salad to start. The kimchi fries, a beautiful display of hand-cut fries topped with braised brisket and Cotija cheese added an Asian flair with a hoisin sauce drizzle. The salad, which consists of fresh crisp greens with sliced pear, sweet grapes, toasted almonds and a coconut ranch, leans toward a refreshing sweeter taste.
For our entrees, my wife was caught between the swordfish and the trout. Swordfish is a sweet but gentle meat, while the wild-caught Idaho rainbow trout is even more delicate; she chose the latter. I ordered the hanger steak, medium rare. If you’re not familiar with hanger steak, it’s an amazing cut and quite prized, which is why you’re not likely to find it in a grocery store. It would benefit you to befriend your local butcher to increase your chances of securing one of these tender and marbled cuts for personal grilling.
Our entrées arrived. Of course, they were visually stunning, as are any of the creations of Herrera’s chefs. The fresh rainbow trout, pan-seared in a cornmeal crust, was carefully planked over a shallow bed of creamy polenta, accompanied with corn macque choux and an artfully applied emulsion of herby green goddess and drops of chili oil. The crisp dusting yielded to steamy mouthwatering trout as we dipped and dredged through the various flavors in the dish.
When the hanger steak was placed before me, the first thing I noticed was the ruby red of the meat, which combined perfectly with the quick sear and caramelization from the grill. It was garnished with cilantro, a wedge of lime, mild peppers, and a salsa verde, along with coconut rice and sweet plantains and a hint of cinnamon. This supple cut of beef melts in your mouth. The accompaniments really reflect a South American and Caribbean-influenced dish.
One course noticeably absent from the menu was a dessert selection. I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it, too. How can we possibly have room for dessert? Here’s a little peek inside my world: yes, we do order a lot of food. It gives me so much more to write about and present to the reader. Most often, at least some goes home with us at the end of the evening.
Tonight‘s dessert was Dark Chocolate Terrine, a high-quality dark chocolate mousse cake, dense, vaguely spongy, topped with sweet raspberries, cream custard, fresh mint leaves and a surprising and exciting dash or two of cayenne. The rich, smooth chocolate cake, the sweetness and the heat were amazing. It was at this point we became genuinely full.
This was our special event: our anniversary dinner at The James 710. It was perfect. Paige, our wonderful server who never let us go without, was always kind and courteous. We appreciated the hospitality of the entire crew, and the gorgeous and amazing creations of chef Michael Breese.
Happy anniversary to my beautiful wife, Shyla.
An Extra Dash
King of Tacos 627 Sam Houston Jones Parkway • Moss Bluff, LA
Just over a year ago, a food truck was parked on the Sam Houston Jones Parkway. The King of Tacos garnered a large enough following by cranking out some of the best food that in a few short months, the owner was able to secure the No. 3 spot in our Best of SWLA Food Truck category. That’s a huge honor. That owner is Josh Louviere.
A short time after the award, a little adjustment had to be made as far as operations and logistics were concerned. Josh vowed to return.
I’ve been following Josh and King of Tacos for some time, and through the clutter and red tape, the truck has re-emerged better than ever.
We both were in the mood for tacos and, of course, we both were in the mood for a burger or so. Why not order a few and we would split them? We placed our order for two Al Pastor tacos, two steak tacos minus cilantro, and a bacon cheeseburger with everything on it.
We grabbed a shady spot at one of the umbrellaed picnic tables and caught up with each other while our food was being cooked. You could smell the aroma of the meat and the seasoning cooking as soon as it hit the grill.
In just a few minutes, a young woman called my name, stating our food was ready. I couldn’t wait to see what was under those lids.
Those tacos, they were pretty. They smelled good, they looked good and it was time to eat.
We both asked for the hot sauce, which we drizzled across the top, adding a squeeze of lime for a little zest. The Al Pastor taco contained a red pepper-seasoned beef with a hint of sweet pineapple, topped with cilantro and onions and all held together by a double layer of corn tortillas. In terms of street taco authenticity, corn tortillas are the genuine standard. No, I understand that not everybody likes a corn tortilla. Tortillas will make or break a taco, and as my daughter stated, these tortillas were done so right it was like corn had a baby with a flour tortilla and came up with this perfect little gem. Weird, I know. But, this is the same person who doesn’t like cilantro, so there’s that.
Next, we turned our attention towards the bacon cheeseburger with jalapeños. This was a big burger! In the option I ordered, it was a bulky burger. It had a thick juicy patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, mustard, melted cheese and a pile of jalapeños. People who serve the sort of thick crispy bacon that was on this burger, they get it.
If you like a serious emphasis on the bacon on your burger, this is your place. King of Tacos offers many toppings. It’s no wonder Josh and King of Tacos won such high honors.