It gets complicated
First visit: January 27, 2012
Landry’s Seafood House is a chain of about 20 such places spread mostly throughout the South and the Southwest. Here are a few snippets that they wrote to describe themselves:
“A Great Seafood Tradition Since 1947.
Landry’s Seafood gets its down-home feel from its very beginnings, as it first made a mark as a family-owned eatery in Lafayette, Louisiana. Run out of the family’s home, Landry’s became a popular choice for locals and eventually expanded into a successful restaurant business, without sacrificing the warmth and personal touch of its roots.
“Today, Landry’s Seafood continues to serve the best in Gulf Coast-style seafood to families, executives and everyone in between. The 24 locations include scenic spots on the Kemah Boardwalk in Kemah, Texas; in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter; and on the water in gorgeous Destin, Florida. To start experiencing the joy of fresh seafood and the fun of a great night out, find a Landry’s Seafood location near you.”
Advertising copy tends toward hyperbole. Is Landry’s really good?
Yes and no. You can get a very good meal here if you choose wisely. You can get an inexpensive meal here if you choose wisely. You can spend a lot of money and get a really mediocre meal. These three statements are true of many medium-to-large restaurant chains that I have encountered. We had intermediate results when we first went there, but we learned how to get a really good meal for a very reasonable price. Maybe next time.
We started with two appetizers shared among the four os us.
Crab Stuffed Avocado
Lightly fried, served with fresh avocado salsa & drizzled with ranch dressing. We all agreed that this appetizer was the best dish we had here this night. Beautifully done, tasty, and the texture was smooth. This is a winner. Unusual, and beats the fried calamari all hollow.
Topped with Parmesan cheese & served with marinara sauce. You can get Fried Calamari all over town. This version falls right in the middle of all the others that I have tasted. Good, but slightly oily, for which there is no excuse. Nonetheless, the pieces had a nice crispness to them. The marinara was boring, and the dish improves with copious squeezes of lemon. And a pinch of salt helps. Not bad, but no better than good.
These were followed with some of Landry’s more popular entrées.
Blackened Redfish with Crawfish Étouffée
Served with steamed rice & asparagus. This was Jane’s entrée, and she raved about it. The fish was perfectly cooked, and the spicing was just right—quite close to New Orleans style and treatment. She thought the Étouffée to be better than most that she has had in Cajun country. To make an Étouffée, most recipes start with “Forst make a roux…”. Landry’s Étouffée had that kind of richness.
Golden fried, topped with sautéed scallops, shrimp, artichoke hearts & spinach, tossed in lemon butter, served with a crabmeat-laced orzo. The tilapia was expertly fried to a slightly crisp golden brown. The inside was still juicy and tasty. On the other hand, the topping was over the top and masked the delicate flavor of the fish. This happens all to often in chains such as Landry’s: An otherwise good dish is ruined by throwing the kitchen sink at it. Better that the topping be simpler and complement the main ingredient. This was not a nice way to treat an innocent piece of fish. Not bad, mind you, but nor very good. The dish misses the mark widely.
Parmesan encrusted topped with sautéed shrimp, artichokes, roma tomatoes & lemon butter, served with rice pilaf & grilled asparagus.
This was Linda’s entrée, and she loved it. Beautifully cooked hunk of redfish and here the topping was a good complement to the fish. Very tasty and nicely spiced dish. Put this one on your list for your first visit.
Parmesan encrusted jumbo shrimp, broiled & topped with jumbo lump crab, served with angel hair pasta tossed with vegetables.
This was Bob’s entrée, and he found it admirable. The shrimp were perfectly done, succulent and tasty, and had no hint of rubberiness that so often afflicts preparations such as this. It is another kitchen-sink dish, but unlike mi tilapia, this one works. Good choice.
We shared a half order of Bananas Foster among the four of us. Bananas Foster is Landry’s signature dessert.
The actual Bananas Foster recipe is from from the original source and creator of this dessert: Brennan’s Restaurant. In 1951, Chef Paul created Bananas Foster. The scrumptious dessert was named for Richard Foster, who served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission. Richard Foster was a frequent customer of Brennan’s and a very good friend of Owen.
The Landry’s version (here’s their recipe) bears little resemblance to the original. It it, however, quite tasty and sinfully rich. If you want the real thing, go to Brennan’s.
Landry’s is a textbook example of what can go wrong in chain restaurants. You are likely to have mixed results unless you order carefully. Some of my least favorite dishes were among the more expensive (the tilapia was not worth the price). Keep in mind, however, that seafood prices have risen sharply, and even with the economy of mass purchasing power, will be higher that your favorite red/green/chile/rice/beans place. Pay attention to what you order and try to keep it simple. Landry’s has a special menu for $19.99 that will get you a four-course dinner. The redfish Verona and Babnanas foster are on that menu, and the fried zucchini are especially good. Better that the calamari, I think. . Try this menu for your first visit.
Some of my foodie friends have a rule: Never eat in a restaurant that you can see from the Interstate. Landry’s may be an exception. It is, to me, better than the similar place just across I-25.
Then again, if you are a real seafood fan, you will do much better at Desert Fish, or Las Equipales, or Marisco’s Altamar, or El Norteño, or….