Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Props To Our Friends on the West Coast: Gulfstream Gets it Right

It’s not often a dish moves me to my computer… but a recent trip to Los Angeles dropped me at the doorstep of a mini-chain spot that simply put, pushed my buttons.

The spot is called Gulfstream… a spot created by the fine folks who brought us wonderchain Houston’s. But believe me, this surprising spot doesn’t eat like a run of the mill chain restaurant. This location (one of 3) is located in Century City… the others are in Newport Beach, and low and behold… New Orleans.

On a rainy, cold Los Angeles afternoon, I found myself planted at the bar at Gulfstream… a beautiful green speckled granite and marble creation. Flanked by the obligatory flat screen televisions, I expected a Houston’s type menu and a chain like experience.

Boy, was I surprised.

First, this is a spot that knows who they are. The drinks are perfect, the food is dynamite, and the service is suberb. Isn’t that just about everything?

Chain or not, nailing all of these would bring you back to an IHOP… but when the menu features fresh fish (and I mean really fresh, as in filleted in the kitchen daily), cold fresh shucked oysters and killer recipes, then you have something.

My meal started with a frosty martini (Ketel One, up dirty is the call), mixed to perfection. The menu itself is small, but robust with choice. Fresh fish, a steak, ribs… you get the picture. Throw in a raw bar and few signature salads and you have fun picking a dish.

I started with the peel and eat shrimp… as most Cajuns will. The shrimp were large, firm and full of flavor. You get 12 of the suckers. But what makes the dish are the extraordinary sauces… a homemade tarter sauce that I would swear I had at Mr. B’s in New Orleans, and a homemade cocktail, that was on the mark. Both were out of the ordinary, but so well spiced with fresh herbs and spices, I could have enjoyed them with a slice of bread.

About this time, I asked for a glass of water…. what showed up was a frozen milk glass with an ice cold milk jug full of crystal clear water. It’s all in the details.

The main course was a special, but I later found out a dish so popular, it shows up almost nightly. The dish… a filet of Grilled Red Snapper, resting on top of a mound of buttermilk mashed potatoes, in a Cajun cream with Florida Rock Shrimp. On the side, a heaping helping of fresh cut coleslaw, with a dressing from heaven.

The fish was so fresh, I would guess the poor guy was swimming in the Gulf yesterday. It was seasoned and grilled to perfection. The potatoes were spectacular on their own, and balanced the dish perfectly… supporting a spicy cream that complimented but didn’t dominate our friend, the red snapper. The shrimp are icing on the cake.

I would have loved to had dessert, but after licking this plate clean I just flat ran out of tummy space. I did find room for a double espresso that was prepared in the same way the rest of the meal was, perfectly.

I have never been a fan of chain restaurants, but if this is the new standard, I’ll rethink my stance. Gulfstream was a complete surprise, and I can tell you that I’ll be back….looking for the special of the day.

Having had a fantastic slaw, I thought I would also share on of my very best recipes… I bring this dish to parties and watch people inhale this stuff. Enjoy!

Andre’s Favorite ColeSlaw Dressing

1 tablespoon fresh, finely minced garlic
1 ¼ cups mayo
1/3 cup yellow mustard
3 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper

Yield 2 cups


15 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1 ½ cups finely chopped yellow onions
¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
2 tablespoons green onions
2 cups of coleslaw dressing

In a large mixing bowl, combine green cabbage, purple cabbage, onions, bell peppers, and green onions. Using hands, toss well. Add dressing, toss and serve.