Occupation: Actress and Comedienne
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: CreoLa Bistro
Reviewed CreoLa Bistro: Thursday, April 8, 2010
Located on a sparsely inhabited stretch of El Camino in San Carlos, Creola is a real gem; a little bit of N’awlins on the Peninsula. The restaurant is quaint and visually pleasing, decorated with muted shades and images of New Orleans singers and musicians. The tables are close but not crowded, with a few that are perfect for romantic dining. The back wall of the room features tables with couch seating, and many pillows for reclining while eating an understated, luxurious meal. Which is fitting, for Creola is a moan-through-the-dinner kind of place.
It’s difficult to not order too many appetizers. Bourbon Street Shrimp is a fine starting point; flash fried and served with rice balls, complimented by an orange marmalade drizzle on the plate. A cup of jambalaya is very satisfying as is the red beans and rice, ordered plain or with the addition of grilled chicken or andouille sausage. All of these sides could be a whole meal — literally — as they can be expanded to dinner size. Salads are crisp and fresh; the Caesar with crawfish hushpuppies is outstanding.
Since we discovered this place several years ago, we’ve tried many dishes and some of our favorites are the Catfish Bella Chasse, dusted with seasoned cornmeal, pan fried, and served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The Sunday Chicken is an aptly named dish for it does evoke a Sunday family meal. It is an oven-roasted breast with a mound of cornbread and crawfish stuffing in natural jus that practically speaks the word “home.” The Blackened Filet Mignon is set in a red wine shallot sauce that produces tangy, smooth pan gravy you can sop until the last drop.
The desserts are top shelf, including the Cajun Velvet Pie with its peanut butter mousse filling, the Creole pecan pie, and the bread pudding, but we rarely stray from the fresh beignets, served on a large plate with raspberry mango drizzle, fresh fruit, and whipped cream. The coffee with chicory is strong and smooth. Creola also features a full bar menu, including wine pairings, and for non-drinkers, the vanilla lemonade is unique and refreshing.
Edwin Caba, owner and head chef, is warm and personable. He greets guests, makes rounds, and occasionally serves some of the dishes himself. The waitstaff is friendly, experienced, and seamless. There’s a lot of teamwork on display, and the meal moves at a steady, laidback pace. You get plenty of attention without any hovering.
The dishes are moderately priced (considering the quality, maybe they’re low!) and from Monday to Thursday, a prix fixe menu is an option worth considering if you go with a group of friends or with just another person that prefers sampling the depth of the menu. They are open for dinner every night, (Wednesday includes a lunch menu, as well) and features live music every Thursday. There is lot parking along with plentiful street spaces.
Occupation: Wedding Coordinator
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: El Metate
Reviewed CreoLa Bistro: Saturday, April 10, 2010
I was excited about this restaurant because I love Louisianan Creole cuisine. I was dreaming of étouffée, jambalaya, oysters, and gumbo, just to name a few dishes. But when I looked up the menu online, I noticed that the prices were not listed. Not liking surprises, I called and spoke with a gentleman who turned out to be the owner. He was awesome — extremely polite and helpful. I asked the average guest check, and he replied that it was around $40 for 3 courses. I also asked if they used opentable.com, and was happy to hear that they did. However, there were no reservations available, but he graciously offered to open up a timeslot.
After I sent the opentable.com invite to my party, one of my friends spotted an offer on the website for a 25% taxpayer special. I sent an e-mail to inquire about the conditions of the offer, and within minutes he had replied that he would be happy to offer the discount to our entire party! The experience of exploring this restaurant online and speaking with the owner was flawless and very gratifying. He made me feel that my party was important and welcome, and I was excited to try the food.
The restaurant was very crowded when we arrived, but we were on time and were greeted by the host who turned out to be the owner who had been so helpful, thus far. He was warm and gracious, and although it was busy, we were seated within minutes.
Our table appeared to be the most comfortable in the restaurant, being partial banquette with comfy, oversized throw pillows and crisp white linen. While the room was softly lit by candles, the décor was a bit underwhelming. It was a mishmash of artwork that lacked cohesion, such as artificial silk grape leaves and track lighting mounted on the lobby wall. The Mardi Gras theme elements looked as if they were purchased from an online party store.
Our server greeted us quickly and took drink orders: Hurricanes, Mint Juleps, and a yummy cocktail called the Pommerita. The cocktails were strong, classic, and much appreciated!
The menu offered Creole classics with some fusion. There were three entrees offering wasabi, panko butter crust, and soy glaze reduction, each with a different protein. The appetizer list also included ahi tuna and poke tacos with wasabi. I was slightly confused. The restaurant is advertised as a Louisianan Creole Cuisine — was “Creoleapanese” a new kind of cuisine I had not heard of?
We ordered our appetizers that included several orders of the crawfish hushpuppies, Shrimp Bourbon Street, a Caesar salad, and a house salad. The hushpuppies were moist, salty, sweet, and the rémoulade was spicy and well balanced. The Caesar salad had a nice anchovy laid over the top and smaller, plain hushpuppies without crawfish that were dry and lacked flavor. The house salad with blue cheese was a very nice choice – eye-catching, appealing and, most of all, tasty! The Shrimp Bourbon Street came with three oversized shrimp with a crisp batter and an orange marmalade horseradish sauce. They were delicious — fried, sweet, salty, and spicy. What more could anyone ask for?!!!
Our entrees arrived, and the Big Easy red fish was tasty and moist, but the potato was dry and flavorless and the portion was not consistent with the other entrees. The Taste of New Orleans was a duet of étouffée and batter-fried soft shell crab. The étouffée was tasty, but we didn’t understand why the crawfish 00 a delicate, sweet and petite item — had been minced into the étouffée. The soft shell crab was crispy, but overly battered and fried. The Shrimp Creola was very yummy, but one of our guests substituted the rice for mashed potatoes, which gave it a strange texture so I would suggest sticking with the rice as the chef intended.
The shrimp entrée was tasty, but the shrimp appetizer offered 3 shrimp for $10, while the entrée had only four for $22. An additional $12 for one extra shrimp with some crawfish stuffing, a sauce, and some veggies seemed a bit inflated.
The desserts were disappointing. The Combo Pie with a chocolate and peanut butter mousse was overly laden with cream and not much chocolate or peanut flavor. The pecan pie with a cheesecake layer sounded divine but ended up tasting like corn syrup with a hint of refrigerator. It was interesting to see a table full of bears leave their desserts almost untouched!
And while there were some slight timing issues with the service, it was friendly and attentive. Overall CreoLa Bistro was warm, hospitable and cozy, but it lacked innovation and imagination.
Occupation: Law Student
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Benjarong Thai Cuisine
Reviewed CreoLa Bistro: Saturday, April 17, 2010
We had a reservation for 7:30pm but arrived twelve minutes late. We ended up being seated at 8:20pm. The hostess was apologetic and did serve us cocktails while we waited. There was a comfy couch in the waiting area where we camped out and sipped on drinks. Luckily no one was starving, but the wait was still way too long. The dining area is very small and cute. They cannot fit many diners, and therefore I strongly suggest reservations, even though they don’t seem to be good at honoring them. The décor is charming. There are shutters on the wall with paintings of the French Quarter to simulate windows looking out onto New Orleans streets. They serve fun drinks, such as Mint Juleps and Hurricanes. One guest I was with ordered a dirty martini, and it was very dirty apparently. They also serve Abita beer, which is apparently a popular beer in New Orleans.
When we were finally seated, our server came to take drink orders. One guest was looking at the menu, so after taking three of our orders he left without asking her or waiting for her drink order. Overall, the service was slow all night. The server did not take our entrée orders until after we had finished eating our appetizers, so there was a long wait between our appetizers and our entrees arriving. We started with crab cakes and crawfish hushpuppies to share. The crab cake was very good with interesting flavors. It was a small appetizer with only one crab cake. The hushpuppies arrived with six total and a sauce for dipping. They were not as good as the crab cake and a little on the dry side.
This is definitely the kind of restaurant where you can order right or wrong. My dish was delicious, and I would order it again. Large prawns were served over a shrimp and crawfish stuffing, and everything was balanced and moist. But two people who dined with us were not very excited about their dishes. Both guests who ordered fish (one was catfish and one was red fish) thought their orders were fine but would not order them again if they were to return. I tasted each, and they were good, but I don’t know that I would have wanted to eat an entire order of it. The other guest’s jambalaya was very good and a huge portion.
Overall the portions were varied. The jambalaya was more than enough food, mine was a good hearty portion, but both guests that ate fish entrees would have preferred more food. They ate the leftovers from the jambalaya and were happy. The food was very heavy, and no one felt like adding dessert on top, though the dessert menu did look yummy.
I would not give Creola a bad review, but I wouldn’t tell anyone to rush out and try it. Since it is a New Orleans-style restaurant, you have to be in the mood for this specific kind of food. They did have a couple items on the menu for people who do not want that type of food, but those items just looked out of place and silly on the menu (for instance, tuna taretare). I think this place has a lot of potential, but the service and food were unpredictable.