1500 Siebarth Drive, Lake Charles
Many rejoiced across Southwest Louisiana as Pat’s of Henderson announced their reopening. Hurricane Laura gutted the building, leaving little more to salvage than countless memories and a brick exterior.
However, after a long and arduous two years, Nicholas and Amanda Perioux, Nick’s sister Natalie and the entire Pat’s of Henderson crew opened the doors. The restaurant has a completely redesigned foyer, updated dining rooms and a state of the art, spacious kitchen. The menu has been enhanced, while retaining many of the award-winning favorites.
My wife and I walked the familiar brick steps and stepped into the renovated interior. It’s an open design, with an elegant bar and spacious dining rooms. Every seat has a view to the outdoors.
We were led to our seats at the bar with its acreage of veined marble top. We’d visited on two occasions. Tiffany, a returning asset for the bar, and subsequently, Brennan, new to the establishment, would be the star of the evening. If you know me, by now you know that I will cave to a dirty martini. My wife opted for a nice Woodford on the rocks.
My wife and I had both longed for several of their menu items while Pat’s was undergoing its resurrection. Finally, after two years those cravings were about to be met. I chose broiled crab claws to start, and Cajun seafood pasta to finish me off. My wife chose Pat’s famous stuffed red snapper. During our second most recent visit, we’d shared a lighter fare with a shrimp cocktail and a pair of hand-made crab cakes.
Nick proudly walked the floor, stopping to greet each and every guest.
The food was undeniably outstanding. The crab claws were just as good as I had remembered. Meaty cracked claws arranged in a shallow plate waited to be dunked into a small cylinder of drawn butter and spices. The shrimp cocktail featured large gulf shrimp perched atop the seasoned rim of a tall stemmed glass filled with cocktail sauce for dipping.
Two large hand-made, pan-seared crab cakes sizzled on the oblong plate positioned between us, and we didn’t hesitate to pick up our forks. Piercing the seared crust of the cakes revealed pure lump crab and secret ingredients.
Pasta, with all of its carb-laden goodness, is a weakness of mine. And the Cajun seafood pasta was a pasta lover’s perfect dish — fettuccine, cream sauce, a blend of cheeses and an excessive amount of crab, crawfish and shrimp.
We finished with the stuffed red snapper. For weeks, leaked photos depicted the preparation and execution of this dish. The end product didn’t disappoint. Broiled red snapper, delicate and mild, was generously stuffed with a blend of seafood and Cajun goodness, a genuine Pat’s of Henderson signature dish.
While everything inside the building is new, the core of Pat’s of Henderson restaurant never wavered. Chef de cuisine Menola Zeno, and his talented executive chef, Daniel Bunker, and sous chef Chris Ward, continue to honor the family recipes, offering the best Cajun cuisine in an atmosphere that will help create your own family memories.
Pat’s is open Monday through Saturday 5 pm to 9 pm. Reservation requests can be made at patsofhenderson.com. Welcome back!
Mi Tierra 4447 Nelson Road, Lake Charles
I’ll admit it. I broke my own rule. I’ve always remained adamant that it’s not advantageous to share an experience in a restaurant new to the scene. Many restaurants, like any other business, take time to work out the kinks, to find a system and a team with which the process becomes fluid and rhythmic. A kitchen and wait staff can go through the motions. But until they are able to execute in real scenarios, it’s hard to anticipate what can go wrong. And, things usually do, even for experienced and established eateries.
Thus, I’ve always stated it’s only fair to allow at least 2 to 3 months to pass before patronizing a new restaurant and presenting my experience.
But there was a recent instance of a particular restaurant that was doing so well — as public feedback indicated — that they were fortunate enough to hit the ground running and never stumble. This prompted a sooner than typical visit.
Mi Tierra began posting a few teaser pictures ahead of its anticipated opening. These caught my attention.
The spot is owned and operated by Robert Wilkening, a Southwest Louisiana native, and his wife Erika, who hails from Tabasco State in the region of southern Mexico.
Mi Tierra, which can be translated My Land, was in its second day open when my wife and I made arrangements to meet there after work. I didn’t have anything to gauge the restaurant’s popularity or premise by, other than the photos uploaded on social media. Those, and a brief description, had me intrigued and prompted a visit. Why? Because people eat first with their eyes. When you see something appealing on a menu, you tend to order that item.
The images I was looking at alluded to the authentic flavors of southern Mexico with Central American influences — a deviation from the overwhelming number of restaurants which offer Tex-Mex. While many of us love the latter style, I wanted something different than food smothered in cheese or some sort of sauce. Admittedly, I questioned whether these photos were pulled from somewhere off the internet. I remained a little reserved based on the visuals. However, if they were legitimate, the payoff would be rewarding.
I had a general idea of where the restaurant is located. But after several missed attempts driving up and down Nelson Road, I resorted to calling my wife for guidance, as she had successfully navigated her way to the location.
The restaurant was in a carved-out strip mall spot that once housed the short-lived Asian venue Bento Sushi. The Bento name was still above the doors due to an unfortunate delay in the signage swap.
When we walked into the building, our first impressions were of colorful walls of green and yellow. There were several tables between the entrance and the counter service setup, with frozen margarita blenders and glasses and large monitors hanging on the back wall.
In the dining room, a couple of families occupied a few of the tables. My wife and I chose a suitable spot. Our server Daicy was promptly ready to take our drink order. A salt-rimmed frozen margarita for my wife and a nice cold Modelo for me were delivered to the table as we looked over the options. I’m not sure whether it was the newness, or an oversight, or just not an option, but chips and salsa were not served before we ordered.
We agreed on the Mi Tierra appetizer, which offered a variety of styles on a sampler plate: a pair of rolled and fried chicken tacos, a chorizo sope, a quesadilla, a mollete and an empanada.
Two plates arrived at the table: one with the appetizers, and the other with an assortment of fresh condiments to enhance the appetizers. I noticed the unique plates, which confirm the pictures as being those of Mi Tierra offerings.
Sope, a puffy corn tortilla topped with refried beans, chorizo and queso fresco, and the empanada, filled with slow simmered shredded beef, were among our favorites.
For our main dish, my wife requested the ceviche and I ordered a quesabirria taco and a carne asada taco. After a short wait, a stunning presentation of fresh fish and shrimp ceviche, dotted with onion, cilantro, tomato and Serrano peppers marinated in lime juice, was placed before my wife, along with a side of tortilla chips and saltines. I loved this ceviche. This coarsely chopped, zesty seafood had a Scoville unit heat count that was a bit high for my wife’s liking.
I ordered both of my tacos on flour tortillas. (They were available with corn tortilla as well.) The carne asada was tender and mild, aided in flavor by the onion, cilantro and the requisite squeeze of lime.
In recent years, we’ve had a bit of a craze here in Southwest Louisiana around birria. It is in high demand. Quite a few Mexican food outlets have begun stepping up their rendition to feed that frenzy. Traditionally, slow- cooked goat in a bold broth of seasoning, chilies and spice, with the tortilla dipped in the sauce, is placed on a hot flat-top and stuffed with braised meat. It’s finished in a fold and accompanied by a cup of amazing deep red consommé for dredging. Most recent recipes substitute beef for goat, but the remainder of the dish remains standard in its presentation.
While I had anticipated the consommé, it was not included. But the taste of the dish was still evident.
I was not disappointed.
I’m very excited for Mi Tierra. Although they were only in their second day, they were enthusiastic about what they have to offer Southwest Louisiana.
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