Delta Force

Posted November 12, 2009 in Eats

New Orleans is a creation of different cultures (French, Spanish, African-American to name a few), occasionally colliding but more often merging into the essential Joy de Vie, hurricanes and government neglect notwithstanding, that make up the Crescent city in 2009. This synergy created the cuisine of the Mississippi Delta, with all of its attendant influences, drawn from all over the world, that still feel so uniquely New Orleans. Of course, music and food are also inseparable in a city where dining and live music often go hand in hand. 


This ambience, this melding of gumbo, crayfish and jambalaya, with jazz, zydeco and Delta blues is at the heart of what owner Norman Copeland is trying to pull off with the just-opened Crescent Jewell, which has risen out of the ashes of the Supper Club in downtown Riverside. Rise the Crescent does, but its ascent in the early stages is shaky at times. 


The space itself is full of promise—two vaulted and bifurcated halls give the restaurant a cavernous feel, making it seem larger than its true dimensions. A lunch patio takes the illusion even further, and suggests the possibilities of the place. One hall contains a groove bar, intimate, yet complete with a requisite widescreen, and could very well become a stop on the wandering hipster circuit. The main dining hall also has its charms, a small stage that the room is focused around, all designed to draw diners to the music. Which starts early on weekends. Say round seven. And if one is sitting in the long center table next to the stage it can be slightly—OK—very, annoying.


If it’s too loud you’re too old or something like that, but it’s also too loud to enjoy an excellent N.Y. strip steak. My strip was seasoned and cooked perfectly, and one of the best cuts of meat I’ve had in awhile. Unfortunately, a blue cheese reduction sauce that was not fully reduced, uninspired zucchini medallions and mashed potatoes that one dining companion described as “bland and cold,” took away a bit of the strip’s luster away. At least I think that’s what was said over the keyboard notes.


Other dishes hint at the promise of the Crescent. The blackened salmon is excellent, perfectly cooked, juicy and delicious. The gumbo is spot-on as well, piping hot, loaded with heat, with sublimely spicy Andouille sausage. I could have downed a vat of the stuff right then. The pan-fried eggplant is also noteworthy, mostly due to the “Voodoo” sauce many dishes are doused in, one of those beautifully paradoxical sauces that hits the sweet and spicy notes just right. 


And the attitude here can make up for the occasional off-note. If they were out of crab cakes on the night we went, they more than made up for it when they agreed to cook up the fish and chips from the lunch menu on the spot. If the cocktails were a bit weak, the Cabernet was quite nice. If the dinner menu was a tad pricy (I later discovered a 20 percent gratuity had been automatically added to our bill; worth being aware of as we wound up tipping 40 percent for service that could be best described as enthusiastically inept), the lunch one seems more reasonable and even more intriguing. Shouldn’t red beans and rice be a nighttime option too? The man on stage told us to “take it slow” in song. I’m going to do just that on the Crescent Jewell. This place has the potential to become a fixture on the Riverside dining “scene.” But we’ll have to “take it slow” on that judgment. 


Crescent Jewell Restaurant & Lounge, 3597 Main St, Riverside, (951) 684-1000. AE, D, MC, V.


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