Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TruOrleans

*Sponsored Post
TruOrleans Restaurant & Gallery features Cajun and Creole family recipes from Louisiana and has recently turned over with new management, a new chef, and a new menu in attempt to revitalize the restaurant. With an open veranda for you to enjoy a view of H St NE and a Mardi Gras themed bar, TruOrleans provides a charming place to indulge in fun drinks to quench your thirst. Throughout the restaurant is an art gallery with items straight from the French Quarter.  Closest Metro is Union Station.

"Tru Redding, the name sake of the restaurant and local developer, met the East’s, a third generation Louisiana family, during a local golf tournament and was invited to attend a duck hunting trip with them in Louisiana. After the hunting trip he was invited back to the family home where he had some of the best Cajun Creole food he had ever tasted and the concept of the restaurant was brought to life."  Building upon that concept, TruOrleans attempts to bring homey creole food in a boisterous bar setting.  Happy Hour specials are offered Monday through Friday from 4pm to 8pm and feature $3 off appetizers, $3 beers, and $3 cocktails. 

I was invited down to TruOrleans by their new marketing director, Will.  After a rocky start with poor reviews, the owner decided to clean house and focus more on the restaurant - from the service to the food.  With the new staff in place for about 5 weeks and a new menu available for 3 weeks now, the restaurant wanted to test the waters and get some honest feedback.  Will excitedly expressed the restaurant's desire to revitalize and contend as a solid dining establishment by making improved changes and increase their marketing via social media.  He went over their revised dinner menu with us and mentioned some of their newer dishes, such as the Broiled Salmon Stuffed with Crab & Spinach.  Though tempting, having come to a Creole restaurant, we wanted some of the more traditional fare that one thinks of when you say "Nah'lins" like: gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp & grits, and beignets.  But first, Keith ordered a Category 3 Hurricane (meaning extra alcohol), that came in a plastic glass.  The drink was strong and seemed to be popular as I noticed many at the bar with "shooters" and other variations of the pink drink.  Other Southern inspired drinks that stood out on the menu include Sazeracs and Mint Juleps.

For appetizers, we started with the Grilled Oysters that came piping hot and were lightly breaded, covered in a tangy cream sauce with diced red peppers.  The oysters were creamy, very tasty, and my favorite dish of the evening.  We also ordered a plate of Gator Tenders served with a side of spicy remoulade. Sadly, they were overcooked and chewy. I have had gator meat before and it is a cross between chicken and fish, but must be carefully cooked so as not to end up like a piece of rubber.  Keith did not mind them as much and stated that they would be a good bar snack that go well with the strong cocktails.

For my main course, I chose the Crawfish Etouffee.  While it was a large portion, studded with plenty of the little mud bugs, the presentation was not appealing as it was a thick brown mixture over dry white rice.  I have had etouffee several times before and am used to a more soupy mix loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and Cajun spices.  However this dish tasted strange and the crawfish meat was bland.  The entrees come with your choice of side and I picked the Fried Green Tomatoes.  These are another new addition to the menu that can be ordered as a side for $6, and still need some perfecting as the breading was too light and oily.  Keith ordered Leland's Jambalaya that again, was a giant portion with beautiful large shrimp.  The sauce was way too tomatoey for him and had a vinegary bite.  As a side he chose the hush puppies, which redeemed his meal as they were wonderfully soft and creamy on the inside with a nice crust on the outside.

TruOrleans has a niche in the DC dining community, as there are not too many Creole restaurants or Mardi Gras themed bars.  With its prime location among the ever-growing H St NE corridor, large patio and open veranda upstairs, they can certainly capitalize on this niche and I see a big draw here during the warmer months.  Vast improvements were definitely seen and felt in the professional and hospitable service.  Our server, Derek, did an excellent job in checking on us throughout the evening, bringing water right away and extra napkins.  He shared his thoughts on the new menu items, answered any questions, and seemed to genuinely care.  TruOrleans has the drinking hole elements down, and the appetizers and sides showed promise, however they still have some work to do on the overall cuisine.  The entrees are too large and do not need to come with a side dish, as ours both already included rice.  They could lower the prices and serve about a third less.  The star dishes appear to be ones that include shrimp, as seen in the jambalaya, and by other tables who ordered fried shrimp or the BBQ peel n' eat shrimp platters.  But Creole fare extends beyond shrimp and I was left wanting more.

Total Rating: 3.2
Food: 3, Price: 2.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Grilled Oysters

Gator Tenders

Crawfish Etouffee
over rice with fried green tomatoes

Plus Keith ate:
Leland's Jambalaya
with hush puppies

 TruOrleans Restaurant & Gallery on Urbanspoon

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