“You can tell how healthy your meal is by how many trips you take to the garbage can,” says Cody McCown. It’s an unusual sentence for a restaurant review to begin with, but this is the premise behind the healthful and decadent food served at his restaurant, LA Seafood in Duson. “Are you throwing away plastic wrappers, or styrofoam or plastic? Chances are if so that food isn’t that good for you. The majority of your garbage should be cuttings from meat or vegetables.”
McCown is proud to say his restaurant’s kitchen doesn’t own a can opener. Everything you eat is freshly cut and hasn’t been trying to survive in the back of a deep freezer. Due to his first career as a personal trainer, the value of food is maximized — cooked and prepared in the best way to retain nutrition.
This doesn’t mean LA Seafood House is a health food joint with triangular plates and algae for dessert — far, far from it. There are fried Oreos and burgers and fried chicken, but McCown insists, both as a man concerned with fitness and as a young father, that what his patrons put into their bodies is the freshest possible.
McCown grew up in Welsh and went on to become a personal trainer in Los Angeles and New York. He and his wife moved home several years ago to begin a family. In 2010 McCown partnered with Dean-O’s to open his idea of the kind of restaurant that serves the freshest fair. “Over 80 percent of my menu is locally sourced within 50 miles,” he says. Then a snafu: the BP oil spill. Suddenly a place with seafood in its name couldn’t get seafood.
“I had to come up with something quick,” says McCown. Then he remembered how he and his bodybuilder pals loved to hit up Brazilian grills back in L.A. Brazilian grills feature fresh meats cooked over an open flame. The history of the Brazilian grill, says McCown, comes from a South American tradition in which gauchos would stop outside of towns and cities for the night and slaughter a calf, offering dishes for a bit of money to the townspeople. At LA Seafood House the deal is unbelievable: for $24.95 per person, or $44.99 per couple, you get an unlimited supply of meat that includes seafood, beef, pork and chicken and an unlimited amount of sides from which there are plenty to choose. Meats are presented to you at the table off a spit and you are offered as little or as much as you want. Having taken the smallest amount of each one and not even finishing half of them, I’m amazed that some folks go back for second and third rounds, but they do. You get to try tuna, shrimp and chicken en brochette, beef short rib, andouille and pork ribs that have been slow roasted then steamed so as to almost fall with a whisper off the bone. Another addition unusual for Louisiana is the very traditional cut called picanha, a beef top sirloin cap that is remarkably tender, tasting rather like a more gamey version of filet mignon.
|Chef/owner Cody McCown slices meat from a spit.|
Oysters are a dish people have a right to be picky about, especially served raw. The day before, I’d eaten grilled oysters at a very fine restaurant in a large Louisiana city and they were delicious. LA Seafood House smokes them. Cooked over an open fire with just a few ingredients, the taste is far more complex than expected. Only a few spices are used, although we were sure there was some secret special blend on top. Turns out it’s just a few fresh spices. We won’t spoil it by telling you what they are so you can have your own fun guessing. The manner in which they are grilled, or rather the fuel for the flame, makes the flesh spectacularly earthy and deep. Even when served raw we had the impression the oysters were harvested about 20 minutes before we ordered them.
The other favorite is going to seem odd, but if you like salad you’ll understand. The Caesar salad at LA Seafood has stuck in my mind since my first taste. Its croutons are house-made from Poupart’s bread, fluffy and crunchy, but it’s the pecans in it that make the salad memorable. They are also roasted and something about the sweet, meaty crunch just makes the whole salad pop. It’s not a traditional Caesar, but the dressing is also made in-house. Put it this way: despite all the food around me, I kept inadvertently stabbing the salad for more, and I would drive back out to Duson simply to get some. Feel free to add shrimp or chicken for a few dollars more.
McCown says one of his own favorites is the drum fish. It’s floured and rubbed with roasted garlic and comes with a light cream sauce that has also been infused with garlic. Drum is a fish that has gotten a bad name and it’s undeserved. Like catfish, drum can be delicious if raised and harvested correctly. It’s a fish with a light, clean seafood taste that isn’t too strong. The roasted garlic crust is sweet and savory and unexpectedly filling.
The majority of the menu can also be prepared gluten-free. Just ask your server.
LA Seafood House isn’t located too far outside of Lafayette — at 1917 Ridge Road, a straight shot a few minutes off Ambassador Caffery. Call 504-5634 with any questions and remember, if it seems like too far to drive, just try the food then tell me that. Driving to a locally sourced and delicious restaurant is far better than waiting an hour to eat at a crowded chain restaurant. It’s open Monday through Thursday 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Find it online at laseafoodhouse.com or search for it by name on Facebook.
Congratulations to Stella Theriot and seven friends who will enjoy a private dinner hosted by INDEats and EatLafayette
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