The Shrimp Po-Boy @ Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, Berkeley

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Shrimp Po-Boy @ Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, Berkeley.

Last week, the quest for decent Cajun cuisine brought me to Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley. I had first noticed this restaurant while perusing the neighborhood for used records and books (Telegraph Avenue has incredible stores for both). I was interested yet skeptical, wondering if any place in the shadows of Chez Panisse could possibly keep the “California” out of Creole. When it comes to Louisiana cooking, I only want to have the pure, unadulterated product. I wasn’t interested in composed salads made with heirloom lettuces and boutique olive oils — I wanted my lunch breaded and fried, whenever appropriate.

Angeline’s does a fairly decent job hitting the mark, beginning with their gumbo, which I found to be very delicious and worthwhile. The soup features a nice, dark roux with plenty of spoon-sized shrimp, morsels of tasso ham, and half-moons of andouille sausage. The gumbo is well-seasoned, with just a touch of heat, and is garnished with a long, narrow slice of French baguette. Although I don’t encounter a lot of gumbo here in Northern California, this is one of the best I’ve tasted on the West Coast.

The oyster po-boy at Angeline’s is also noteworthy, although the sandwich comes dressed with stone ground mustard, which is not typical of anything I’ve ever had in New Orleans. Next time, I will definitely request the po-boy without the mustard, since this addition creates a completely different flavor profile (again, I’m placing authenticity at a premium). Aside from this one criticism, however, Angeline’s po-boy is a pretty faithful version of the sandwich, stuffed with just enough large, fried oysters to make eating a slightly messy affair.

Angeline’s jambalaya was easily the least-appealing item I ordered at the restaurant. The dish was mostly bland and tomatoey, with very little New Orleans flavor, and with only trace amounts of chicken, tasso and andouille. I was certainly expecting much more from this dish, given the strength of the gumbo and the oyster po-boy. Even dousing the jambalaya with Crytsal hot sauce couldn’t really wake it up. It required much more help than a mere quick fix.

I admired the fact that Angeline’s carries a selection of three or four Abita beers — and even more incredibly — offers Dixie beer as well. The restaurant has about 15 small tables in the dining room and a couple on the sidewalk, and I understand that there can be a significant wait (90 minutes or more) on some weekend nights. I visited Angeline’s mid-week during the early afternoon, so I actually had the place to myself. I’m not sure if I would wait an hour and a half for their gumbo, but I would definitely wait half an hour.

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