Christmas in July

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This lamb carpaccio was probably the best bite of the night. Don’t let the idea of it being raw prevent you from trying this amazing appetizer!

I neglected to write about our dinner at Cristiano during the tail end of its spring menu. Lindsay and I shared all the featured appetizers as our meal, a feast unlike anything one could find elsewhere in our humble area. Naturally, this left us primed to try out the restaurant’s summer menu the week it premiered.

We went in blind this time, unlike our meticulously planned spring fling. At the time, Cristiano had yet to post the entirety of its summer offerings, so we were left with hints on the chef’s Instagram account as our only intel. We pulled the trigger nonetheless and were very pleased with the duo of summer dishes we tried.

Immediately upon seeing the full seasonal menu, it becomes clear that Cristiano isn’t your typical Houma restaurant. I’m hard pressed to think of anyplace nearby that serves frog legs, lamb carpaccio, tuna crudo, and ricotta crostini, prepared in a seasonal fashion, as its appetizers. When frog legs are the “normal” option for your starters, you know you’re in for an interesting meal.

We went with the “Carpaccio d’ Agnello,” circular slivers of raw lamb with a thin chili-lime sauce, served with pumpernickel crostinis and a mound of spicy greens, all served atop a roughly cut stone slab. It was absolutely fantastic and probably the best dish we ate all night.

Lindsay had the first bite and hit the nail on the head when she described it as very refreshing. The citrusy, garlicy sauce was extremely light but flavorful. A slice folded on a crostini and topped with some of the grassy greens made me think the carpaccio would make for a great summer picnic snack: light, slightly cold, and so, so fresh tasting. Our only complaint would be serving it with just three slices of crostini. Four would have been enough, but we didn’t mind devouring the remaining slivers on their own they were so good.

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It’s a bit hard to see (Cristiano has the audacity to make diners sit in romantic lighting, to the detriment of my Instagram account), but this quail is wrapped almost entirely in sweet, crispy bacon!

For entrees, I had decided upon the “Anatra,” duck confit with candied figs and duck fat roasted potatoes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only diner with his heart set on this sinfully delicious sounding dinner, and our waitress sadly informed me they had sold out of the duck for the evening.

In its place, I opted for the “Quaglia,” bacon wrapped quail with Steens cane syrup lacquer and grilled peaches. Again, Lindsay quickly and accurately described an aspect of the quail’s flavor that I was trying to place. “It tastes like a holiday,” she said. It wasn’t until later in the meal that I realized she was right: the meatier pieces of bacon, lightly coated with that sweet cane syrup, tasted like a Christmas ham. And while that certainly doesn’t conjure an image of summer in my head, the crispy, slightly charred bits of bacon gave off a distinct bonfire sense memory that immediately brought the dish back to summer. The grilled peaches combined with the peppery arugula salad were a nice addition to the plate as well.

Lindsay was stolen away from the summer menu for her entree by the delicious sounding daily specials Cristiano posts every day on the restaurant’s Facebook page. That night it was the gnocchi, small potato dumplings Cristiano offers its daily take on. This particular bowl had a caramelized leek and red wine sauce and was topped with seared tenderloin tips. Every bite was extremely rich and delicious. While it’s most likely intended as a personal appetizer, the gnocchi was a bargain at eleven dollars while serving as Lindsay’s meal.

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It looks like a delicious steak (and it is), but beneath lie rich, bite-sized potato dumplings that will blow you away.

On our way out, our friend Taylor who was working the front of the restaurant asked us about our meal. The owner beside her was thrilled to find two young people had not only tried the carpaccio but loved it. He also apologized about the duck explaining that it has been really popular in the short time the menu has been available. We promised to return, perhaps earlier in the evening (though 7:45 wasn’t particularly late for a Friday night) so I can finally try those duck fat roasted potatoes.

There’s a good variety of upscale, fine dining restaurants in Houma for anyone looking for a special evening or just a really nice meal, but it’s hard for us to pass up Cristiano when we’re in the mood for that kind of dinner. Maybe it’s because we’re already familiar with the place or because it constantly assaults my Facebook with the daily specials that all sound amazing. Either way, Cristiano always convinces us to return even before we leave and still full from the delicious meal we just finished.

Cristiano Ristorante | 724 High St, Houma, LA 70360 | (985) 223-1130

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