Monday, March 5, 2012

Restaurant Critique #1: Seafood Favorites

Now that Chris and I live in Houston and are able to not only go out to eat more often but also have such a wide array of options available to us, I have decided to start posting about some of my favorites and compare them to each other! I am going to start with my favorite type of food... SEAFOOD!
This will be a comparison of 3 of the best "Upscale Seafood" restaurants available to us The Woodlands/ Houston metro area.

My first experience...
I have always LOVED Pappadeaux ever since I ate there as a sophomore in High School in Austin, TX. I was on a trip to State Solo and Ensemble contest in San Marcos, TX and this was a meal our band director and band boosters provided to this students who were performing at this contest. I loved seafood but had never ate there until this trip. My band directors both seemed to know this restaurant well and ordered several appetizers to share while we waited for our order. One of these appetizers was fried alligator! It was amazing and I have been hooked on these little bites ever since. (In fact, I occasionally swing by Pappadeaux on my way home from work to get an order of these to go!)

Main Dish Menu Options/ Choices
Pappadeaux menu is a mix between traditional and Cajun style cooking. They have platters available as well as fresh catches and even a live lobster tank as you walk in. I personally have never ordered and chosen a live lobster from their tank (They are VERY EXPENSIVE... $100/ per lobster) but I have always wanted to. I usually get the Fried Seafood platter which has, shrimp, catfish, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab and oysters (All FRIED of course). This is always good and makes for a wonderful lunch the following day. This platter is $27.95 and it comes with Pappadeaux's sourdough and rye breads.

Appetizers/ Salads
As mentioned above their Fried Alligator is literally "to die for" and I order it pretty much EVERY time I eat there. I have also ordered their Fried Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller (These are loaded with bacon, shrimp and cheese and then fried) as well as Oysters on the Half Shell. I have not found a better restaurant for Oysters on the Half Shell (If this is your thing!!) They do NOT offer salads as a part of the entree' but you can order one on the side for a charge of $3.95.

The presentation of Pappadeaux's food is very classy yet down to home. Most of their dishes are southern in nature and they serve these dishes like so. They present them on a bed of rice (or french fries for the fried foods) and usually come with 2 sides each.

Restaurant Decor
The decor of Pappadeaux is very professional and each table is covered in both black and white tablecloths. The building itself usually has lots of windows and very open throughout the seating area. The bar area is towards the front of the building but never a distraction to the average family seeking a non-alcoholic dinner or evening. The servers all wear white shirts and ties and they serve you as if you were in a very fancy French or Italian restaurant. They unfold your napkin and follow other high class etiquette rules you would not find at your family Red Lobster!

My first experience ...
I have not eaten at Landry's as much as Pappadeaux but I have had my fair share of Landry's. The first time I ate there was my junior year of High School on a DECA field trip to Corpus Christi, TX. We were staying on the beach and our hotel was a short walk away from my hotel room. My sponsor, Mr. Froman, had grown up in south Texas and had ate at Landry's numerous times. I loved my first experience so much, I went back about 3 more times in our remaining 6 day trip.

Main Dish Menu Options/ Choices
Landry's menu is not a broad a Pappadeaux but they seem to be experts in the shrimp area of the seafood menu. They had about 12 different ways you could order and eat shrimp. They had 3 different shrimp platters and featured side dishes like shrimp loaded mashed potatoes and shrimp stuffed mushrooms. Each time I have eaten there I have gotten a featured shrimp dish or platter. Since Chris and I have moved to Houston we have had the opportunity to eat at Landry's and this last time I went I ordered the Fried Seafood platter, just to get an accurate comparison to my current favorite of Pappadeaux. The seasonings and means of frying seemed a little classier than that of Pappadeaux. The waiter told me they used Peanut oil in their frying and lots of spices. I liked the overall taste of most of the dishes on the platter better than Pappadeaux. This Seafood Platter was $24.95 but it came with a salad.

Appetizers/ Salads
The appetizers served at Landry's are typical southern seafood favorites but they are given a little extra "twist" to make them unique to Landry's. For example, the last time Chris and I went to Landry's we ordered the Crab Stuffed Avocados. These were large half avocados that were stuffed with Crab meat and a seafood "dressing" and then topped with Chipolte Ranch Sauce. They will incredible. We both wanted to order another order of them almost immediately. Other appetizers on their menu include: Craw fish and Shrimp Bisque soup, Crab stuffed Mushrooms and a Blue Cheese and Shrimp Fondue. Unlike Pappadeaux, Landry's includes a salad with each meal. This salad is served much like the family size salads at "Olive Garden". It is a basic tossed salad with all the fixins' served in a large family style bowl. They serve this with their made/ created from scratch "Honey Mustard Raspberry Vinaigrette". This sounded a little weird to me but it was AWESOME!

Landry's seemed to present it's menu and food in a little bit more of an upscale fashion when compared to Pappadeaux. Each main dish comes with 2 delectable sides as well as homemade bread and "seafood inspired" butter. (I personally do not like butter so I don't know what it taste like but Chris gave it two thumbs up!)

Restaurant Decor
The restaurant decor of Landry's is also a little bit more upscale than that of Pappadeaux. They too have white and black overlapping table clothes but they also have wine glasses and cruise style folded napkins at your table as you arrive. This sorta sets a precedent for fine dining even before you order anything. The waiters are finely dressed in all black attire with ties. The dishes are served much like you would see them on a Food Network/ Iron Chef style of cooking show or presentation. These dishes often come with the added mint or drizzle of sauce on top of the dish which also eludes to a higher class of dining.

My first experience...
I first learned about Babin's from a billboard sign advertising 1/2 price Crawfish during Happy Hour on my way home from work one afternoon. I saw it was in The Woodlands so I told Chris we should try it out. We tried it out on a Friday evening in November and we have loved it ever since. It is a cross between the Southern/ Cajun style of Pappadeaux and the upscale and high class of Landry's. Babin's is a seafood restaurant straight out of the bayou of Louisiana and New Orleans and their food and style speak of their heritage. Chris, Natalie and I were experiencing this restaurant together and we made sure to try most everything we could this first time around.

Main Dish Menu Options/ Choices
The main dishes at Babin's are much like the previous two establishments but a little bit more Cajun or Mardi Gras style. They feature an entire portion of their menu that is labeled Mardi Gras features year round. They also feature a blackboard at the front of their dining room that has a list of the fresh fish flown in from various places around the world. Chris has order a fish called Golden Tile which comes from the southern Pacific rim. This was a very delicate fish that was NOT overwhelming in "fishy-ness". It came served with crab and lobster sauce and roumalade over the top and that right there sent this dish "OVER THE TOP"!! It was by far the best fish Chris and I had EVER HAD in our lives! This blackboard of fresh fish changes from week to week and even day to day. This last time we went they had a Red Snapper flown in that morning from Hawaii and a Butter Fish flown in from Tahiti. We did not try either of these but they sounded excellent. Most of their fresh fish options range in price from $25-35 but their main menu choices are very fair priced at $20-25 each. I ordered the Crawfish Etoufee last time and it was BY FAR the BEST I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE! It was priced at only $17.95 and it included a salad.

Appetizers/ Salads
The appetizer selection at Babin's is one of the best I have ever seen at a seafood restaurant. They have a wide selection of soups and bisque's available as well as other items such as crab stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail and even stuffed jalapenos with shrimp, crab and cheese called "String Rays". Each time Chris and I have ate at Babin's we have ordered the boudin balls stuffed with crab and cheese. These are unbelievably amazing and I think I could order these just as an entree as itself. Natalie even liked them. The salads at Babin's are a wedge style salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cheese bacon, homemade croutons and house salad dressing. It is served with homemade bread and creamy butter sauce. These salads come with each entree and fantastic and worth the money even if they were not included! Babin's also has a wonderful dessert tray which features New Orleans style Beingets. These are AMAZING!

The dishes at Babin's remind me of Emeril's style of cooking and emphasize on New Orleans style presentations with lots of roumalade and other Cajun sauces and spices. The servers wear black and white with Purple, yellow and green accents and Mardi Gras beads.

Restaurant Decor
Babin's presents itself as a New Orleans Style Kitchen which focuses on Mardi Gras and the celebration of amazing fresh fish and seafood on a daily basis. The restaurant is decorated with large fish decor and New Orleans decorations and Mardi Gras colors EVERYWHERE! They have a beautiful fountain with fresh water and rock background as well as a lovely sitting area with patio tables to sit at while you wait for your table.

Overall Rating System
I am going to rate these 3 restaurants on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being set as the best and highest points possible. I elaborated on 5 topics above but I am going to only have 3 categories in this final round of judging: Menu Options/ Taste, Presentation and Overall Experience and Overall Value. This is allow for a 15 point possible total score.

Menu Options/ Taste- 4.5
Presentation/ Overall Experience- 5
Overall Value- 3.5
Total- 13
Menu Options/ Taste- 4.5
Presentation/ Overall Experience- 4.5
Overall Value- 4
Total- 13

Menu Options/ Taste- 5
Presentation/ Overall Experience- 4
Overall Value- 5
Total- 14

We have a new winner Ladies and Gentlemen... BABIN'S SEAFOOD HOUSE!
This will be my new, birthday, anniversary, special occasion or just any ol' Friday night eating joint!

Man I love living in HOUSTON!!!!

Even in a blog such as this... God is good... ALL THE TIME! If it weren't for Him we would not even be down here right now! Must we NEVER forget...

God is Good... ALL THE TIME!

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