Last week Dylan and I were lucky enough to be invited along to one of Brisbane's newest seafood venues: Louisiana Redclaw.
I’ve not had a trip to the States yet, and so I was unfamiliar with this style of seafood dish: The Louisiana Crawfish Boil. The Crawfish is Louisiana’s official State Crustacean and constitutes serious business. A Cajun delicacy, the crawfish is akin to a miniature lobster and lives in freshwater. The Crawfish Boil itself is a tradition that sees family and friends gather in their backyards for huge feasts of crustaceans boiled in aromatic broths alongside corn, potatoes and sausage. After being drained, the seafood and accompaniments are often served on a trestle table covered in newspaper in the backyard!
After doing a bit of research, I am certain we were absolutely spoiled with our experience of a Louisiana Boil at Louisiana Redclaw (LR) on Wednesday. Not only did we enjoy a stunning array of fresh local seafood, but we were treated to the secret sauce that is exclusive to this restaurant. LR doesn’t cover your dining table with newspaper and upend a crab pot of crustaceans on it, thank God! Instead, they gently toss the seafood in one of their signature sauces before serving it in a very ‘my parents’ poolhouse décor in the 90’s’ large seashell bowl.
Once you arrive at LR, a big decision awaits you. Do you opt for a Classic or Deluxe Platter, with anywhere between five and seven varieties of luscious shellfish, or do you design your own bespoke bowl? There are up to ten crustacea and molluscs available: Queensland Redclaw Crayfish, various local prawns, New Zealand clams and mussels, sand crab, rock lobster from WA… the list goes on! My recommendation on your first visit would be to go for a Classic or Deluxe platter to get the full Louisiana Boil experience. Keep in mind though, this is not a cheap and cheery night out. Cheery yes, cheap, no. Fresh seafood lovers all know how much we pay for fresh mud crab, redclaw, sandcrab and lobster at the fishmonger, and that is certainly reflected in the prices at LR. A Classic Platter will set you back $160 and will feed two people generously with bread on the side. A Deluxe will set you back $260 and will feed two - three people well. As I said, not cheap but for the seafood fanatic: worth it.
Chef and Manager Robert orchestrated a delectable mix of the best fresh seafood he had in on the day; the volume ending up somewhere between a Classic and Deluxe size. We certainly ate more than we needed to, if only because it was too tragic to leave anything behind. This is where the fun begins – don a bib (!) and gloves, get a crab cracker and get into it! I’d never had crayfish before and really enjoyed the sweet, mild flavour. Owner Khang came out to introduce himself just as we were getting into the swing of things, and kindly instructed me on how to most efficiently peel the crayfish. A real trap for young players; these crayfish are a little tricky. Under instruction I twisted the head off, then the tail, then used the crab cracker to crack the body with the back facing toward me. Only then was I able to get at the juicy flesh. Worth the effort, that’s for sure.
While we were cracking and feasting, we talked to Khang about his inspiration for Louisiana Redclaw. Apparently his wife Anna is a huge fan of the Seafood Boil and it has been a family favourite at their house for many years. Bringing this style of seafood feast to the people of Brisbane has been a dream of theirs and they are very excited at the response so far. It’s refreshing to see an American style of food come to town that isn’t ribs and burgers! Khang also mentioned that he loves seeing people get together over a Seafood Boil because it’s such an engaging way to dine. Phones are (necessarily) away as friends and family share a bowl of seafood, eating with their hands and enjoying each other’s company.
Besides the time and effort that goes into procuring the best Queensland seafood for their menu, the time and effort put into their ten-hour sauces is noteworthy. The sauce is only a subtle influence on the flavour of seafood itself, but make your way to the bottom of the seashell and marvel in the Cajun complexities of this sauce.
The sauces are cooked in two four hour stages. The spices and prawn shells are first simmered together to make the bisque before the garlic is added and simmered over a very low heat for a further four hours to imbue a sweet, subtle flavour.
We went with the Signature Zing sauce which was garlic-laden, warm and comforting. It is imperative that each diner secures their own bowl of cob loaf bread for this sauce – you will not want to waste a drop. It will certainly keep the vampires and the common cold away this Winter. In fact I wonder if they’d serve it to me as a soup next time, if I asked very nicely?
There are six sauces to choose from: a herb and pine nut remoulade, a buffalo-inspired sauce and three sauces spicier than the Signature Zing sauce we chose. For heat-lovers, the Burn Baby Burn sauce is quite the challenge. We were treated to a tablespoon of the original base sauce and let me say: four days later my face is still on fire. Tread with caution!
All of this seafood and spice will leave you with a thirst. Dylan and I enjoyed margaritas upon arrival and a pint of Coors and Ale House throughout. I’d recommend beer, a crisp white or a tangy cocktail to accompany your seafood feast. I apparently brought shame upon my family by not removing my gloves to handle my pint and leaving the glass looking a little worse-for-wear. This is not a feast for the faint of heart and I say that dirty beer glasses are justifiable collateral damage!
Although the seafood boil is undoubtedly the star of the show, there are some sides on offer at Louisiana Redclaw, too. I consider it my moral duty to test out the fries at any venue I visit that offers them and the kind crew at LR did us a mixed bowl of garden variety and sweet potato so we could try both. How accommodating! Rest assured, if you have children or spouses who aren’t into seafood but are into fries, simply plonk a bowl of these bad boys in front of them while you attack your crayfish and you will not get one single complaint. Crunchy, salty, still soft in the middle: chip perfection.
It'd be difficult not to order a seafood boil upon our inevitable return to Louisiana Redlcaw, but I am sorely tempted by the clam chowder and onion cobb bowl. I LOVE CHOWDER! Underrated, in my book. If the sauces used for the boil are anything to go by, I have high hopes for that chowder. *Update*: a friend had the chowder on a recent visit and didn't rate it. Perhaps this is a venue where you stick to what they do best!
Chef Robert twisted our arm into sharing a Coconut Crème Brulee and boy, am I glad he did. It was every bit the classic dessert you know and love, with just the most subtle hint of coconut cream. Totally delicious,that imperative crack and a lovely way to finish a fun night.
If you’ve been to Louisiana and experienced this style of seafood before, you must go and try Louisiana Redclaw. If you’ve never been to the States, like me, but love seafood, the same applies. Whilst the restaurant doesn't have brilliant atmosphere, the seafood boil is certainly an experience worth trying. Ditto the margaritas! I can see this being a popular venue for boys’ nights, family dinners, long table parties and fun date nights.
I can’t wait to go back!
Louisiana Redclaw is situated in the M&A complex on McLaughlin/Ann Street in Fortitude Valley, next to Madame Rouge. Crucially, parking is available at 25 Connor Street in a secure underground carpark. LR will validate all diners’ parking tickets upon request. Yay, free parking! Brisbane Foodie and husbo were invited guests. Opinions are my own.