Usually on Thursday nights, Jim is getting in really late, and we are welcoming the midnight shift at our favorite diner as we sit down to eat dinner. Jim has a couple of weeks in a row where he is scheduled to come in at 7, so he wants to try a couple of restaurants we have not yet eaten in, and this one is on the radar.
Melange bills itself as Louisiana and Italian cuisine. I can’t eat much in the way of Italian since my surgery, but I love Cajun food, so I’m anxious to see how Melange stacks up to my favorite local Cajun retaurant, the Creole Cafe. We call ahead and make a reservation, but when we arrive, the restaurant isn’t terribly busy, so I don’t know if the reservations were necessary. It is kind of a smallish restaurant, however, so if you want to try it for yourself, call ahead and secure a table.
You will find, having had gastric bypass surgery, that there are things on the menu you can eat some of. If you are familiar with the Creole cuisine, you know that there’s often rice involved, and I can’t eat much rice. But you can certainly eat around the rice in many of the dishes. There is also a good selection of grilled steaks and pan seared fish. If you do phone ahead for reservations, you can speak directly to Chef Joe Brown about your dietary needs, and I feel confident that they will do their best to accomodate you. The staff was very friendly.
We decided to start with two appetizers. I couldn’t make up my mind, so we went with the appetizer sampler and the trio of soups.
The appetizer sampler came out first, and it was a beautiful presentation. There are four different appetizers here. We started with the fried oyster, which had a real southern, down home flavor, enhanced by a delicious red pepper and honey sauce – just a little sweet and just a little spicy. Next, was one very large pan seared scallop. I could have made a meal out of a few of these. You don’t see the scallop when the plate is in front of you, as it is topped with a next of very thin, very crispy fried onion rings. They were so good! I only ate one, but could have eaten a whole plate of them – and that was before the really delicious scallop! The next appetizer on the platter was the smoked shrimp. Served cold, the large shrimp was all Jim’s, because I can’t do shrimp, but underneath was a corn crab relish with pecans. I all but inhaled it. The lump crabmeat was fresh, in big chunks, so I was able to pick it out through the corn. And there were plenty of crunch pecans that tasted so good with the crab! This was definitely a nice choice.
It wasn’t until the final appetizer on the sampling platter that we had our first taste of disappointment. And I can’t blame the Chef or the kitchen, but our own personal tastes. It was a cold appetizer that featured a slice of grilled marinated eggplant, stacked with fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, and I think a portabello mushroom. It was too dense for us to really enjoy, and while the marinated eggplant had a nice flavor, it really isn’t our cup of tea. A tiny sampling of the crab cheesecake would have been better!
The appetizer was followed by the soup trio. I can eat most soups without any difficulty, and I have come to really enjoy soup. The trio includes their two standards – crab bisque and sausage and bean soup, and then they add what they call the “soup of the moment”, which tonight is Manhattan clam chowder. I love clam chowder, but unfortunately, it doesn’t love my new digestive system, but I figure between Jim and I, we’ll manage to enjoy all three soups. We are again impressed with the simple but elegant presentation, and I quickly dig in. The crab bisque is velvety smooth, with a hint of tomato, and generous chunks of that same lump crabmeat that was in the corn crab relish. The only thing I don’t like is that I think the splash of sherry in the soup was a tad too generous. Had it been brought to the table, I would have probably left it out entirely. It didn’t add anything to the bisque for me. The sausage and bean soup was by far my favorite of the three. It was packed with tender white beans and some good sized hunks of andouille sausage. It had a nice flavor, just a little bit of spice, and definitely was the highlight of the trio for me. The clam chowder fell short. There was something in it that really over powered the soup, and I still can’t put my finger on what it was. There were good sized chopped clams in the traditional Manhattan clam chowder tomato soup, but there was some herb or spice or something that just wasn’t good for me. I left the whole sample for Jim to finish, but he wasn’t especially fond of it either, so it got left.
Upon the suggestion of our waitress, I ordered the pan seared tilapia. The mountain of tilapia was presented over a good sized portion of the jumbo lump crabmeat and spinach. It was finished with a really light tomato type of sauce with mushrooms. The crabmeat was delicious. It was, again, that fresh, chunky bits of crab, cooked perfectly. Now here’s the thing. Tilapia is a GREAT choice for gastric bypass patients. It’s high in protein, low in fat, and really, it’s almost like the tofu of fish, in that it takes on the flavor of the things it is cooked with. As far as how it was cooked – perfect. But the flavor just wasn’t here. I don’t know if I expected something a little bolder or spicier because of the Cajun thing they have going on here or what, but it was kind of bland. Loved the crabmeat, but crab can stand on it’s own without too much seasoning or spices. But the fish was bland.
Jim had the jambalaya, which I thought tasted really good, but the rice was a big portion of this dish – as it should be in jambalaya. The flavors were good, I had a scallop from the dish which was delicious, and it had shrimp, mussels, clams, andouille, ham – a good combination of proteins. If you can eat shrimp and clams and mussels – which I have a hard time with – this would be a good sharing dish, as someone else can get the bulk of the rice.
There are no sugar free desserts on the menu, but they do have a great dessert menu. The appetizer sampler and the soup sampler is more than a complete meal for someone with altered digestion, but there are plenty of items on here that you can eat and enjoy.
I would probably return to Melange, although my favorite is still Creole Cafe. But the atmosphere here is great for a romantic meal and they comfortably accomodated a large family party while we were there.
They have a dinner tasting menu for $75 per person which looks fabulous. You may end up taking home a good portion of the meal, but definitely something to try!