Dining Out With Pam Grant

If you don’t find space in the limited on-street parking, then it can a bit of a trek to Blue’s Bayou.
As my cousin and I negotiated the path from a steep parking lot to this floating restaurant facing Angler’s Anchorage Marina, I thought about the people who cannot visit here.

Anyone planning a fancy dinner should be warned – the bulding resembles a well kept bait and tackle shack wih a deck more than twice the size of the interior dining room. You have to go out side to use th e bathrooms,. If understated decor is your thing, and you think that beige is a great colour, you might be a lttle uncomfortable here.

Go anyway. Just don’t forget your sunglasses.

Purple chili pepper lights adorning the windows compete with vivid green and fuschia lights strung from the ceiling. Tablecloths are black with more breight chili peppers, and the wallls bear an ecletic assortment of pictures, including a large blowup of Frank Sinatra’s mugshot.
taken after his arrest in connection with the seduction of a married woman in Bergen County, Neew Jersey, in 1938. A narrow sheflf above the doorway displays an intriguing collection of hot sauces with names like ‘Acid Rain’, but the houes own Blue’s Blistering Hot Sauce takes pride of place on every table.

The interesting menu offers a mixture of Cajun, Creole and West Coast cuisines. Since it was one of those evenings heralding the end of summer and the end of a busy week, Dermont and I decided to begin with some soup to revive ourselves.

The quality of service here became clear as we ordered. Soups come in two sizes, but when my cousin ordered a bowl af what turned out to be a very fragrant tomato and basil soup, our server gently asked if he would be having a man course. When he replied yes and that he was and that we intended to share a salad too, she gently suggested the smaller portion ($3.95). “You might want dessert too” she smiled.

My gumbo ($4.95) summed up the Pelican state in a bowl. Forget the Cereole and Cajun cuisine that you have had around town, flavours here are authentic and less reliant on an overabundance of hot sauce. Rich tomato broth loaded with rice, chicken, okra, and alligator – which really does taste like chicken – was tempered with thyme, onions, garlice and bay leaves and was downed in a flash, along with soft , warm cornbread. The only disappointment was the tortilla chips that topped it, instead of the softer strips of corn tortilla i was expecting.

The Bayou salad (full order, $ 8.95) was a restorative mix of baby greens , spinach, avoocado, juicy orange, and red Bermuda onion, bound with a light but pleasantly asstringent citrus dressing and garnishedwith roasted almonds and asiago cheese. Salads can also be topped with your choice of alligator, Cajun, or Tequila and lime-flavoured chicken or prawns, for an additional $4.95.

We tried unsuccessfully to ignore the call of the superb crawfish and crab cakes (three for $9.95), rich with seafood instead of breadcrumbs or potatoes, served with roasted garlic mayonnaise, spiked with a hint of chili.

Thankfully there was a bit of a break before the main course arrived. Dermot’s jambalaya (vegetarian $7.95/$13.95 or with meat $9.95/$15.95) was the definition of comfort food, the very kind that soothes a soul beaten up by rebellious computers all week. Similar to the Spanish paella, this dish may feature any combination of sausages, pork, chicken, beef, duck, shrimp, oysters and crayfish and vegetables, cooked with rice in a variety of spicey liquids. Blue’s version offers plenty of chicken, prawns smoky andouille sausage, simmered with a rich, red Creole sauce fragrant with onions, celery and green peppers.

It went well with anicy beer as the sun began it’s descent over Brentwood Bay.

The fish of the day – halibut encrusted with horseradish – was tempting, but something else caught my eye and refused to be dismissed. The fisherman’s Basket ( $19.95) reminded me of long lost days on the beach. A dozen large mussels catfish filets, prawns and a juicy crayfish (shell on) sauteed with roast garlic nestled happily with fresh corn and new potatoes, all drenched in butter flavoured with paprika and pepper.. It took us a long time, but we finished it.

Over coffee, we looked out at the bay listening to Louis Ellis and alittle Robert Johnson before some lively zydeco tunes snnapped us back to reality.

They say you can spend a day on the deck here and watch the fireworks from Butchart Gardens for free. Next summer beckons. I just hope they can manage a wheelchair ramp before then, so we can all go.