Tag Archives: Cristiano

An Illustrated Guide to Cristiano

Once again, our area is receiving a bit of attention for showing up on a popular list making its way around Facebook. Thrillist’s “11 of the Best Louisiana Restaurants Outside News Orleans” includes Cristiano and Fremin’s in its number. And while it’s great to see some of the restaurants I love get some of the recognition they deserve, I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed with the list. Two sentences are all that readers have to glean what they can about each of the restaurants, so I figured it may be helpful to elaborate for anyone whose interest may have been piqued by the list.

Consider these mini-reviews of two great, local restaurants.

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Upscale but casual, sophisticated yet rustic.

Despite serving some of the area’s most sophisticated food, Cristiano retains a comfortable casual vibe. The dining rooms are dark, the walls adorned with interesting artwork like some hip apartment in a trendy part of town. The patio is more casual still and perfect for sharing dishes and boisterous conversation with friends.

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A trip to Cristiano isn’t complete without their chargrilled oysters.

It’s very much possible, and recommended, to make a meal out of sharing a variety of appetizers at Cristiano. The star has to be the chargrilled oysters, unique among Drago’s imitators with the inclusion of sweet red pepper to the buttery, garlicky mix. The fried green tomatoes, topped with lump crab meat remoulade, are a close second. Be prepared to order another round.

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Chili-fried oysters, one of the great seafood appetizers on the summer menu.

If Cristiano’s year-round fare wasn’t enough, open the menu and you’re greeted by their seasonal dishes: unique plates focusing on the current season’s fresh offerings. Each one usually consists of a soup, salad, a handful of appetizers, and a number of entrees. Recurring themes seem to be fantastic carpaccio (thin slivers of raw beef) served upon a marble slab, duck confit (cooked in its own fat), and lots of great seafood. At the moment, the Summer menu features amazing chili-fried oysters, curried mussels, and pan-seared sea scallops.

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Gnocchi with bacon and pork shoulder, spicy shrimp pasta, crawfish risotto, and hake with jalapeno risotto. Four specials, all served on the same day!

Specials are a specialty at Cristiano. If you’ve somehow exhausted the regular and seasonal menus, there are the daily specials. If you aren’t already following the restaurant on Facebook, the staff posts fresh preparations of gnocchi, risotto, pasta, fish, and more every afternoon. The pillowy gnocchi and creamy risotto can’t be matched, or sometimes even found, elsewhere in the area.

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Lemon pound cake with blueberry sauce and vanilla gelato dessert special!

It’s difficult to advocate saving room for dessert here when it’s possible to fill up entirely on appetizers, but you may regret not doing so when your server recites the available desserts. Italian classics like tiramisu and gelato are fantastic, but listen for any dessert specials. They’re always great and usually accompanied by a scoop of one of the great gelatos. Plan to share at least one with the table.

The secret to enjoying Cristiano, not that it’s difficult, is to go in expecting to indulge, preferably with others in the same mind set who are willing to order almost the entire menu just so they can try a bit of everything. When that happens, nothing can go wrong.

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

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In the Belly of the Beast

Working 9 to 5 in Raceland isn’t conducive to frequent incredible lunches. That’s not to say there aren’t good places to eat for lunch in the Central Lafourche area (hello, JB’s Grill!), but when you only have one hour to eat each weekday, lunch becomes a matter of convenience rather than seeking new and exciting food. No more! I now have a great new job that will allow me to explore every corner of this area I’ve dedicated my free time to document.

Naturally, I began with lunch at my favorite restaurant around, Cristiano. I’ve long been jealous of those who work in proximity of that laid back courtyard, relaxing in the shade by the restaurant’s green house while waiting for one of their decadent sandwiches to arrive at the table.

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Behold! The Belly of the Beast!

When the Belly of the Beast appeared, I knew this was a meal worth daydreaming about all those days at my old job. With an incredible name like that, you know it’ll be a sandwich worth remembering: Jim Beam braised pork belly with a house smoked habanero aioli, smothered greens, bacon and onion on a fresh baked bun. It was tangy, smoky, savory and incredibly delicious. I struggled for a moment when ordering the side, salad or fries, but figured a sandwich with such a name shouldn’t be accompanied by a bowl of lettuce. I chose right.

Cristiano’s frites are tiny and lightly battered. They remind me of those potato strings I would eat out of the can when I was little but better in every single way. There was something extra tasty about them; a drizzle of truffle oil according to my server.

I look forward to eating like this for lunch more often.

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

Another Valentine’s Day Feast at Cristiano

ImageIt’s hard to believe Lindsay and I have only been going to Cristiano for a year, but Valentine’s Day marked our one year anniversary of eating at what I consider the area’s best restaurant.

I made a reservation a few weeks in advance, and when we arrived, I was a bit anxious as we were taken immediately into the bar. My concerns disappeared, however, when we realized the lounge area had been converted to comfortably accommodate the Valentine’s Day crowd with a partition separating the tables from the bar area.

We ordered a half dozen char-grilled oysters and a small meat and cheese board for appetizers. The oysters were great as always, topped with a tangy red pepper and garlic combo. The standout of the board was the Midnight Moon cheese, rich and creamy. The bread it was served with a bit too soft for charcuterie, but everything was delicious as is.

Lindsay got the osso bucco, which she likened to the most decadent pot roast ever. I went with the carne special from the Valentine’s Day menu, filet medallions in a Dijon gravy with arugula and brie mashed potatoes. Everything went together so well. The gravy could have easily overpowered the dish, but it was so well balanced. The peppery arugula worked especially well, and I struggled to stop shoveling the creamy potatoes into my mouth to save room for dessert.

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We had the creme brulee, macerated strawberries, and chocolate cake. That makes us sound like pigs, but that’s the way it’s served, two small ramekins of dessert with strawberries in between. The cake was overly sweet making it difficult to eat more than a tiny bite at the time. I wish we could have gotten two dishes of creme brulee instead as it was one of the best I’ve had. We concluded our second Valentine’s Day at Cristiano with coffee.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before we’re back to try the Winter menu specials.

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

Welcoming the Third Wheel

Cristiano’s daily Facebook posts detailing the evening’s dinner specials keep us going back to what would typically be a once-a-year kind of restaurant. This time, we seized upon our good friend Brandon coming to visit as an excuse to go back. As it turns out, Cristiano is an excellent choice for both a romantic date and a fun dinner with friends.

Having only decided to go at the last minute, we didn’t make a reservation and had to wait for a little while in Cristiano’s lounge. It’s an extremely interesting space, dark and filled with eclectic leather furniture. There’s a nice bar in the front and a few sets of sofas and chairs separated into their own intimate seating areas. A group of people to our side were sharing some appetizers at a low table. I’d like to go back some time and make a meal out of Cristiano’s appetizers in the lounge some day. My only complaint would be the odd vibe the club music creates with the unique decor.

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Once we were seated, Brandon coaxed us away from our usual decision to order a carafe of the house red wine and instead go with a bottle of Riesling. Lindsay and I usually stick to reds, but the chilled bottle of semi-sweet white went well with our meal.

We started our meal with an unintentional tomato feast. The bruschetta was overflowing with so much diced seasoned tomato it was hard to see the crostinis underneath. It was a bit difficult to eat with every bite unleashing an avalanche of tangy bright red tomato onto our plates. This worked out in our favor, though, as the little bit of greens served beside the bruschetta were perfect for scooping up the leftovers.

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We also had the fried green tomatoes, which turned out to be my favorite part of the entire meal. The three medallions of fried tomato were topped with a cold crabmeat remoulade. The dynamic between the cold, rich crab and the piping hot tomato combining with each bite made me regret, if just for a moment, that I had to share the appetizer.

Lindsay, once again, got the daily gnocchi: brie gratinee. Each miniature potato dumpling was so rich and creamy. Our waiter confirmed our suspicion that the gnocchi isn’t typically served as its own entree when he asked if Lindsay wanted a double portion, but the incredible richness makes it the perfect centerpiece of a multi-course meal. If Lindsay wasn’t already content enough with her choice, it turned out to be only nine bucks.

Brandon went with the family recipe lasagna. He raved about the way it was served with the sauce on the side, maintaining the pasta’s texture through every bite.

I was finally able to get the anatra, the summer menu’s duck confit entree that they ran out of the first time we came to sample the seasonal dishes. The duck leg was coated with a sweet candied fig sauce. On their own, the skin would have been too sweet, and the meat within too salty, but together they were two powerful flavors balancing out into one delicious bite. The sauteed arugula and duck fat roasted potatoes served with it were equally powerful and tasty.

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We decided to hear the evening’s desserts, listening for something that the three of us could share, but nothing really struck a chord with us until we inquired further. Only then did we learn that Cristiano offers a gelato sampler, a choice of three out of four flavors. Chocolate-covered bacon immediately jumped out as the flavor we had to try, accompanied by Zabaione and chocolate (maybe we’ll try vanilla another time.) The three of us went through the flavors in order, ending with the bacon. It had a subtle smoky flavor that worked well with the chocolate. There was no gimmick to it like you would imagine hearing “bacon gelato.” I’d order it again.

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This meal was more of a special occasion than our last couple visits, but I’m always thrilled to find something new and delicious at Cristiano. We don’t need to go all out every visit ordering wine, multiple appetizers, seasonal entrees, and dessert every time. We’ve had just as good a time making a meal out of appetizers, ordering the cheaper plates of gnocchi and risotto, and getting ice cream up the road at the Scarlet Scoop for dessert. So far, Cristiano hasn’t disappointed in letting us have the meal we want, no matter the occasion.

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

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

Valentine’s dinner at Cristiano

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Nice rack!

Where to eat: Cristiano Ristorante (724 High St, Houma)

What to order: Chargrilled oysters, Agnello

While I certainly wouldn’t recommend a casual trip to Cristiano, it was a perfect local restaurant for a Valentine’s Day dinner. The restaurant itself is quaint while the service and food are quite upscale. I don’t imagine it’s usually as busy during the week or even the weekend like it was for Valentine’s, but fortunately, we made reservations and everyone dressed for the occasion.

A special Valentine’s menu was available that evening, but Lindsay and I had been eying the standard items online for the past two weeks, so we only glanced at it before deciding. We started with a half dozen chargrilled oysters. These differed a bit from the iconic Drago’s charbroiled oysters in that they’re topped with roasted red pepper which lend a sweeter finish. And while it’s not likely any restaurant can top Drago’s creation, Cristiano’s take was delicious nonetheless.

Lindsay ordered the Filetto alla Fiorentina, a 10 ounce filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus with a peppercorn brandy demi glace drizzled atop. The filet had a nice crust with a smoky flavor.

I went with the Agnello, a rack of lamb crusted with dijon and herbs and served with polenta crisps and a rich, savory sauce. It was my first time ordering a rack of lamb anywhere, so the presentation of the chops interlocking with the bones was impressive. The meal was delicious and went well with our carafe of house cabernet.

I’d like to go back to Cristiano again, even if we just order pasta. It’s a very charming restaurant for a special occasion. What are the best restaurants for occasions like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries in the area? Let us know in the comments.