“Real Louisiana Fisherman know that the pompano is the best one. They’ll take some guys out on the water and say, ‘hey, just give me that small fish there.’ And the guys won’t know any better. Pompano are real buttery [. . .] and we serve them whole fried or grilled.”
After a tour of his kitchen, Ryan Andre, Executive Chef of Baton Rouge restaurant Le Creolé, explains the logic behind eating whole Pompano. Owned by Wayne Stabiler of Baton Rouge’s Little Village restaurants and overseen by GM and sommelier Clark Ellis, Le Creolé is a place where diners of southern Louisiana can go and eat real Louisiana seafood in the New Orleans tradition any night of the week. Here you’ll find Crab Cakes with Jumbo Lump Meat, Nola-Style BBQ Shrimp ($24), and one of the only places to get real Turtle Soup ($6) in the Baton Rouge area. The menu speaks to other kinds of Louisiana traditions–Buttermilk Battered Louisiana Frog Legs with a Chablis Beurre Blanc ($22) and small game like Rabbit Loin served with Grits and Crawfish-Tasso Cream Sauce ($24).
Unlike local restaurants that specialize purely in the “surf” aspect of Louisiana cooking, Le Creolé serves up other branches of our state’s creole cuisine–everything from small game, quail, duck, frogs, and turtles. I realize how this last sentence sounds–these animals are so cute, how could you possibly eat them? But as diners from Louisiana know, both Creole and Cajun cooking focus on what’s local and available–whether that be wild game, seasonal vegetables, and cultural grains (like grits). But for Creole cooking specifically, the cuisine creates these dishes with a history of French Provincial cooking in its menus. At Le Creolé, you get the sense that you’re dining within this tradition and with locally caught and raised ingredients.
As I looked at Ryan Andre holding a freshly-caught Pompano in his hands, I realize this is a place where Creole cooking flourishes (just as the name suggests). Not bogged down by the limits of finicky modern eaters where only tourists can be seen ordering the frog legs, but enhanced by the realization that here is where people who know something about French Louisiana cooking come to dine in a New Orleans-style atmosphere.
Pictured: Ryan Andre holding freshly caught Pompano–served whole either grilled or fried.
Perhaps this is why Chef Ryan Andre has been named as one of this year’s “5 Chefs to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine (look this fall for a full article). A Valedictorian from the Louisiana Culinary Institute (read my previous post here), Andre has manned the kitchens at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, and has a resume steeped in classical training in the state’s cookery culture.
Le Creolé’s Executive Chef, Ryan Andre, spends 6 days a week in the restaurant’s kitchen often from opening until close. Unlike the chefs who bark orders and hand off major tasks to kitchen employees, Andre is the one who mans this grill Tuesday night and makes crab cakes personally.
So, here’s what you can expect from one of Baton Rouge’s top gourmet restaurants. Although a new business (about two-years-old), the restaurant’s menu, staff, and experience evoke Old New Orleans class as if it’s been sitting on the edges of town for years. Romantic lighting, dark leather seating, and formally set tables offer a casual but romantic mood for lunch or dinner.
Pictured: Le Creolé Dining Room: reminiscent of the old New Orleans line-restaurants with intimate seating, specially trained servers, and classic place-settings. The atmosphere reminds me of Galatoires in New Orleans (a distant cousin, perhaps?).
And the staff is equally friendly as the GM and Chef. I spent some time chatting with the house bartender who I watched create everything from “Gin Mists” to hand-squeezed Margaritas prepared from two limes and a helping of Agave Nectar. I swooned just a little bit when he talked about drinking red wine with his mother and concocting drink specials.
Pictured: Le Creolé Bartender muddling mint for an order of mojitos.
Pictured: One of Le Creolé’s new drinks, the “Gin Mist”: a beautiful summertime cocktail that involves Gin, Cucumbers, and a splash of Champagne.
Pictured: Chef Ryan Andre transferring freshly baked biscuits for the tables Tuesday evening.
Pictured: Andre’s famous crab cakes–made with jumbo lump crab meat and held together by just a little bit of sauce, the cake literally falls apart the second you dig your fork into it. No breading, flour, or thickener required: this cake is individually handled by the chef to ensure it stays together between the grill and your plate.
Pictured: Hands down, one of my favorite shots of the evening–a waiter decanting red wine for a table of two (glasses of wine average $10 each). The staff was so friendly and had such a sweet and easy laid-back relationship that it was great to watch them mix drinks and chat while the food magically came together.
Pictured: Light and buttery biscuits served on every table. The batter is remarkably sweet and candy-like. Chatting, drinking, and noshing on these biscuits gave the impression that the meal started more with dessert than bread.
Pictured: Turtle Soup served in Classic Ceramic Lion’s Head Soup Bowls and a side of Sherry ($6).
Pictured: Rhett’s killer instincts for a great starter: The Le Creolé Salad ($18) made with sliced mango, fresh greens, and a vibrantly-flavored seafood topping. The shrimp were jumbo and sweet, and I wasn’t surprised to see him clean his plate.
Pictured: Classic Nola-Style BBQ Shrimp ($24): a plate of 2 lbs. size 12 shrimp (yes, that means 12 shrimp = 1 lb.).
Pictured: Whole, freshly-caught Pompano (which I kept calling my “Pompadour!”): at $32. Growing up on the coast of Maine, I am not at all unfamiliar with the eating of whole fish. Truthfully, this is my preferred way of eating fish–straight from the bone without any time for oxidation or age to set in. The fish is buttery, light, and made even more gourmet by the cream and green topping on the size served face up.
From start to finish, we were pleased with our orders. I’ll spend weeks trying to recreate Andre’s Pompano dish and imagining just how beautiful the fillet tastes. What’s so great about the Pompano is that once you’ve cleaned the top side, simply flip the fish over and dig into the second fillet. The meat is best (and buttery-est) closest to the tail, but be wary of tiny bones as this is one of the boneiest areas of the fish. Along the underside (by the ventral fins or “stomach”), the meat is fatty and good, but can be a bit bitter if you get too close to the ventral fin. Good rule of thumb: stay close to the fish’s flat fillet sides for perfect, buttery fish.
Plus, from a highly unbiased perspective, I can attest that the service at Le Creolé is has been consistently considerate, attentive, and quite superior in nature. Long before my Tuesday-night dinner, Rhett’s mother and “Nanni” explained how accommodating the staff was to seat their family last Mother’s Day. The hostess was able to seat a crowd at a time that wasn’t crowded and even answered all of her questions over the phone.
In the future, I plan to return and order the crab cakes, another of their in-house margaritas, and whatever else looks good on the menu. Until then, I’ll be dining on Pompano, but it’ll never be as good as Chef Ryan Andre’s.
For reservations or walk-ins at Le Creole restaurant, call 225-752-7135 or visit its location in the Highland Market strip center at Highland Road and 18135 E. Petroleum Drive.
For other reviews of Le Creolé, visit
“Stylish Creole Creations: An Inspired Restaurant Opens in Baton Rouge“ by Lisa LeBlanc-Berry
“Le Creolé’s Contemporary Feast“ by James Fox-Smith at Country Roads magazine
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Written by: Helana Brigman