Thursday, May 31, 2012

Casamento's - New Orleans


If you mention the word oysters in relation to New Orleans restaurants, the floodgates will open. From on the half shall at Desire and ACME on Bourbon to po-boys at Domilise’s to char grilled at Drago’s, there’s an oyster outlet for every palette. However, no matter how assorted the opinions, one name will invariably pop up in every conversation, Casamento’s. Started in 1919 and only open from September to April, or months with an “r”, Casamento’s has been covered in every medium; from the spiky haired pillock on the Food Network to Playboy to local bloggers such as Blackened Out and Nojuju. Needless to say, Casemento’s has long more than deserved a visit but until this April, I’ve never had the chance. Either through the time of year, day of the week, or time of day, I’ve never opened the door into the white tiled restaurant. Finally, armed a long weekend, I was bound and determined to make Casamento’s my first stop in New Orleans.

After finding a surprisingly convenient parking spot on magazine and a short wait in line, it was simply a matter of choosing what to order.
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In the meantime, an Abita Andygator helped the process.

Call it blasphemy, but I do not like gulf oysters on the half shell. Even though Casamento’s is known for quality oysters and a dynamite cocktail sauce, I started with a cup of the oyster stew.
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Labeling this a stew seemed like a bit of a stretch but there was no denying the appeal of butter, milk, and oyster liquor.
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Before stirring, it actually looked like the butterfat had separated from the stew.
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Needing a little salt, this stem was simple and rich.  Complimenting the richness were a few plump but overcooked oysters. Even with the oyster’s chalky texture, this was a stew for oyster lovers.

Knowing that Casamento’s is famous for their oyster loaf, ordering one was a foregone conclusion but I was hung up on the seasonal offering of soft shell crabs. Earning her tips with polite service and helpful attitude, my waitress suggested making the best of both worlds with a half oyster and half soft shell loaf.
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A lion’s share of fried oysters and soft shell sandwiched between incredibly thick slices of lightly toasted white bread, this half and half loaf was a monster.
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Fresh from the fryer and still steaming, these oysters were plump and well seasoned.
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I’ve said that the best a gulf oyster can hope for is to be well-fried and these were a find example of the breed.

Of course, there’s still another half of the sandwich.
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Much like the oysters, the soft shell was beautifully fried and not too heavily seasoned.
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Each bite was a chance for the flavor of the crab to shine through and it did in spades. This was little more than a light dusting of cornmeal and the crab’s own briny flavor.

Some might say that half the charm of Casamento’s is their seasonal novelty but any restaurant than can close for three months of the year and still remain viable must be doing something else right. What Casamento’s does is celebrate the bounty of the gulf, particularly the oyster. Raw, fried, stewed, or char grilled, Casamento’s has cemented itself as a New Orleans destination for the bivalve. I may have eaten better oyster po-boys in the city but there’s little doubt that Casamento’s is worth the wait and effort, just be sure to bring cash.

Casamento’s Address & Information
Casamento's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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