Finding the international through line on Rouj Creole’s colorful and tasty menu

I’m always a little cautious when visiting a restaurant in a shopping center—you never know what you might find. Will it be an upscale dining experience—or something more like the chain restaurants that came before it?

Walking into Rouj Creole, though, we were immediately soothed by the muted dark color palette, soft lighting, and wood and leather accents throughout. We hoped the food would be as elegant as the understated decor.

The West Indies Avocado Salad features a peppery arugula base topped with sweet crab, avocado and a sprightly cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

At first glance, the menu might appear unfocused, with foods from various culinary heritages all thrown together. But the restaurant’s goal, as explained on its website, is to draw a line from the melting pot of flavors in south Louisiana to the global influences brought here from immigrants and slaves. Hence, the menu’s more French-Caribbean spelling of “gombo,” for instance.

Charging ahead with this backstory in mind, we ordered Johnny Cake Shrimp Tacos and Socca + Red Bean Hummus. A friend ordered the Duck + Andouille Gombo, which arrived before our appetizers. Luckily, he shared while we waited for our food.

The gombo was dark and rich with a deep roux flavor. A worthy bowl.

Though a tad greasy, the French socca (chickpea pancake) with the hummus was irresistible. The flavor reminded me of Indian pancakes. Oil aside, none of us could resist eagerly stuffing our mouths with piece after piece. Red bean hummus should be the new hummus spread, with its extra earthy flavors and rouge tones. Flourishes of fried artichoke hearts and confit garlic cloves created a satisfyingly fancy spread.

We were all a bit confused by the shrimp tacos’ cornbread-like taco shell, with a sweetness that caught me off guard. But the spicy and juicy grilled shrimp and Caribbean flavors of the pineapple salsa brought it together for my palate. This is not your usual taco, though, so my companions were dubious.

As an intermezzo, we ordered the West Indies Avocado Salad to enjoy after the appetizers. A peppery arugula base was topped with an entire avocado stuffed with sweet crab all crowned by a sprightly cilantro-lime vinaigrette. It was the perfect shareable size but could also make for a gratifying entree. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Authentic flavors emanated from the barbecue shrimp sauce on the Tournedos + Shrimp. If French bread had been included, the heavily spiced sauce would have been happily sopped up. Tail-on shrimp were large and succulent, the steak was serviceable, and the textured mashed potatoes were immensely pleasing with the zesty sauce.

The Sugar Cane Spice Cake is a heaping serving of two wedges of cake topped with a lightly sweetened cream cheese sauce, cane syrup and fresh berries.

Pescado + Paella was loaded with seafood and accented by hunks of mild chorizo. Saffron colored the al dente rice a lovely orangish hue. Paella is a rare find at restaurants in Baton Rouge, and we lauded this one for all its flavors. My friend was appreciative of the attractive gratin-like serving vessel. It added a touch of class to this enormous dish.

Though we were stuffed, we couldn’t resist the Sugar Cane Spice Cake for dessert. When placed at the table, my friend gasped and said, “There is no way that’s a single serving!”

Two ample wedges of brown, earthy spiced cake were spread with a lightly sweetened cream cheese sauce and a final drizzle of cane syrup. Half of it would have been enough for us to share. In fact, portion sizes were huge for all our meals.

If I have one critique, the pacing of courses could have been better managed. Nevertheless, Rouj Creole thoroughly surprised us with its distinctive flavors and unique dishes.

It goes to show: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

THE BASICS: The team behind City Pork Brasserie & Bar went in an inventive new direction with this venture, which opened in June 2019. The upscale restaurant explores the history behind Creole cuisine, tracing it to immigrant groups from Spain, Haiti, West Africa and other countries.

WHAT’S A MUST: For an appetizer, try the Socca + Red Bean Hummus for the textural chickpea pancake and interesting take on hummus. For an entree, go for the Pescado + Paella for its presentation and flavorful seafood and chorizo medley. For dessert, save room for the Sugar Cane Spice Cake and its decadent cream cheese topping.

7601 Bluebonnet Blvd., Suite 100

Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Editor’s note: This review was written before the COVID-19 shutdown of restaurants. Check with Rouj Creole for any menu changes.

Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.

This article was originally published in the July 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.