Shrimping, Not Skimping

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crescentcityshrimp.jpg

'Tis the season for big holiday parties and for some people I know those big holiday parties are traditionally held at Crescent City Steakhouse.

If you've never had the pleasure, the menu is simple: the classic steak cuts, all of excellent quality, a couple of salad options, shrimp cocktail, a few side dishes and onion rings. There aren't too many decisions to make and the food presents a crowd-pleasing spread. . .unless, you're like a friend of mine who refuses to eat steak. Seafood would be okay for him, but definitely not red meat. He's what I call a sortatarian, an aquaratrian or a New Orleans vegetarian, someone with vegetarian sensibilities but enough sense to indulge in the bounty of local waters.

He was evidently in the dark about Crescent City Steakhouse when he accepted an invitation to a big group dinner we both attended there recently. Maybe he thought it was like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, where the menu runs to tuna, giant Portobello mushrooms and even lobster, that favorite of local minor politicians when a constituent is picking up the tab.

Crescent City, I warned him, was all about steak, steak and -- especially if you order the massive porterhouse -- more steak. But he was stoic, he would just load up on something au gratin and shrimp cocktail.

To my utter surprise, when the rest of us got our strips and T-bones, he was accommodated with a big plate of shrimp Clemenceau (pictured above). It was just like chicken Clemenceau but with the main ingredient swapped out for seafood and the ham omitted. It's not on the menu, but the waitress offered it readily when my meatless friend asked about his options.

I suspect it is a creative use of the kitchen's side dish fixings on hand, plus a load of would-be shrimp cocktails, though it was quite tasty nonetheless. Apparently, there are enough New Orleans vegetarians out there to inspire even the old-school Crescent City to innovate a little.

- Ian McNulty

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