Saturday 13 July 2013

Crazy Cajuns, Birmingham, AL

It’s not very often that I get to have something truly different for lunch, but yesterday was one of those days. I’m in Birmingham, Alabama on business and whilst out and about with my hosts we stopped for lunch at Crazy Cajun, a very ordinary looking place on a small outdoors shopping mall. This wasn’t one of the places that I had been recommended before my trip so when I first saw it I was a little un-sure, possibly even disappointed.

That disappointment changed very quickly on entry, Crazy Cajun is über-cool; with taxidermy and all sorts of paraphernalia on the walls. A truly great environment, so I ordered a root beer and interrogated the menu. I’m not especially familiar with Cajun food, I’ve eaten it many times in the UK but it hasn’t been at all authentic, so this was like a new experience. Strictly speaking, I don’t think Cajun is an Alabama speciality but this place came highly recommended from my hosts.

We had alligator as an appetiser to share on the table. I’ve had alligator before in the USA and it’s something I enjoy, it can be a little tough and fatty but it tastes great. The cocktail sauce that accompanied it was delightful too.

Next on the list was Louisiana Gumbo, described as ‘an authentic dark file gumbo’, which was served with rice. The gumbo in Crazy Cajun had won awards in 2006, 2007 and 2010! The choice was chicken and sausage or seafood; we ordered ‘ya-ya’ which is all of the above mixed together. The gumbo was super-tasty and really very well spiced. The rice was sticky and served on top of a gumbo that was full of flavour and full of meat and fish, including the ubiquitous crawfish (spelt the American way). I’m not sure how to describe the flavour but it tasted like it had some Asian fish sauce in it. I’m sure it didn’t, but whatever it was tasted wonderful.

Main course could have gone very wrong! One of my hosts was very keen on a dish and recommended it to me; I didn’t feel like I could say ‘no’. It was a pasta dish, and regular readers will know that I’m not a big fan of ordering pasta in a restaurant; however a recent pasta success in another establishment meant I should give it a go. So I ordered the (unassuming sounding) seafood rotini…

Fresh Louisiana crawfish tails, Andouille sausage and shrimp simmered in a Creole fettuccini sauce, served with rotini pasta.

This dish was fricking amazing! The crawfish, sausage and shrimp were all divine, and there was a lot of each in the dish, with just the right amount of pasta. But the sauce… fricking amazing is the only way I can describe the rich, creamy and spicy Creole sauce. I’ve not enjoyed a dish so much for a long time, and just thinking about it now makes me very hungry indeed. I’m also not sure I’ve eaten a plate as food as quickly before.

In fact, the sauce was so good that I 'borrowed' some leftover bread from one of my hosts to ensure that not a drop of this excellent stuff wasn’t wasted. I desperately wish that I lived near this place; I would visit all the time and work my way through the rest of this excellent menu. Any one of the dishes eaten were deserving of a SUPER-DISH but it has to go to seafood rotini as one of the best things I have eaten in a long, long time.

Thanks to Brad for recommending such an excellent choice for lunch, looking forward to coming again!

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