Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ouisi Come, Ouisi Go

We heard that a local New Orleans-style bistro called Ouisi was giving 15% of the price of its trademark Jamabalaya and Gumbo to New Orleans relief. Sounded like a good excuse to go there and try Real New Orleans food. We'd had New Orleans food in Japan, which was exquisite, but that's true for food in general there. Surely a city as famous for its food as New Orleans would be a great culinary treat. Or so we thought.
The menu was intriguing enough. Divided into Cajun and Creole specialities, one of the Creole dishes was an asparagus and roasted new potato salad tossed with jasmine-tea marinated sour cherries, smoked gouda, candied pecans and grapefruit-fennel vinaigrette. We're not in Disneyland's New Orleans square anymore! Too bad we didn't order that.
I was delighted to see Sangria on the menu. Much less so when it was actually in my glass. It tasted like a smoothy (heavy on the raspberries) over which someone had whispered the word "wine" a couple of times.
For appetisers, Fumiyo ordered the crab cakes and I went with the blackened tuna. The tuna thankfuly wasn't totally burnt. Beneath the skin, the tuna was pulpy, which made it ideal to soak up all the pineapple and red pepper it came with. Fumiyo's crab cakes were much spicier, but where was the crab? We've had a lot of crab cakes over the years- most of the better fish shops in Vancouver make their own and they're always excellent. I'm sure it wasn't immitation crab but exactly what was in them remains a mystery. Where is Sherlock Holmes when you need him?
My gumbo (from an African word for okra) arrived looking like a large brown ocean next to a small continenent of rice with some green tree-like substance growing in the middle of it.
Fumiyo's vegetarian Jamabalaya looked like a continent of rice next to a continent of vegetables.
We dug in.
The gumbo tasted strongly of earth. Earthborn, but not detached from the soil. Inside the earthy stew were fish, vegetables and probably meat. I slightly recognized a scallop, but it was heavily disguised. What was that flavour? Its overall overwhelmingness is finally punctured by a fishy taste. Crawfish? Something strong enough to cut through the gumboness and identify itself as "fish." Neither good nor bad, just kind of heroic in a culinary literary sense.
I sample a mushroom from Fumiyo's Jamabalaya. It reminded me of an escaped prisoner, or slave. Spartacus, perhaps, trying to start a rebellion. A sprig of parsely was its key to freedom.
Fumiyo complained that the whole meal was tasteless and she attempted to rectify this misfortune with pillars of salt. My gumbo continued to attempt to escape, only to be constantly sucked down back into the mud.
The music was mellow (not exactly New Orleans style jazz, but good for digestion) and went well with the art work on the walls, mostly portraits of jazz musicians. The meal was not expensive and it was for a good cause. But as we left, Fumiyo insisted "no more strange restaurants."


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