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.
THE BASICS: A nod to its name, the walls of Drunken Fish are peppered with murals of fish that appear to be indulging in sake. It’s the fish on the menu, though, that are worth getting drunk off of at this Highland Road gem. Sushi and sashimi alike are fresh and luscious. The proximity to LSU makes this a popular spot for college students, but this is a worthy stop for all ages and walks of life.
WHAT’S A MUST: The multi-page menu can read like a mini chapter book, with options ranging from sushi to pho to vermicelli. If you like pho, try a bowl of Hi Tieu, a soul-comforting soup with clear rice noodles and your pick of seafood or veggies. The Dare Devil beef and rice entree will turn the whole table into chefs—with a skillet atop a small tabletop stove allowing diners to cook the meat to their liking.
Inside a small strip mall near the gates of LSU lies a variety of tastes both commercial and curated. In the curated category, there’s Drunken Fish. The restaurant offers an interesting combination of Vietnamese and Japanese cuisines.
During our visit, we opted for both—beginning with Tai Ceviche Salad with a tasty mix of onion, cilantro, jalapeño and lime. A magnificent mound of fresh red snapper was sprinkled with a spicy seasoning mix and a side of ponzu. The fish was indeed fresh, with a lovely chew punctuated by pops of masago fish eggs that burst in our mouths. Ponzu added just the right sweet salinity to complete the dish.
We decided to bypass the mayonnaise-laden House Special Rolls in favor of a roll that put the raw fish front and center. Tokyo Roll fit the bill, with its yellowtail and tuna cozily wrapped in seaweed and rice. I prefer my rolls straightforward, and this mix of fish peppered with green onion and sesame was right up my alley.
As a means of testing the freshness of the fish, we ordered two sashimi options: salmon, and my partner’s favorite, yellowtail. The yellowtail was like buttah. Sashimi salmon is my personal favorite, and while it was fresh, tender and oh-so luscious, it still couldn’t hold a candle to the opulent yellowtail.
The menu has an interesting bunch of entrees, especially the Dare Devil. Marinated beef is served with steamed broccoli and rice. But what makes this dish so unique is the cooking method: a cast iron skillet served atop a small tabletop stove to allow diners to cook it to their individual preferences.
The slices of meat we were served were the perfect thinness to make for rare morsels, and the accompanying marinade was reminiscent of teriyaki. As the beef hit the pan, it created a head-turning aroma that had the neighboring diners looking over with jealousy.
We declared the Hi Tieu bowl a clean, simple pick that was so, so good. A chicken broth-based alternative to pho, the noodles were slightly thinner but with the usual accompaniments of cilantro, jalapeños, Thai basil and limes. I found a delightful sweetness to the broth and thought any additions would mar rather than enhance the flavor. My partner, too, proclaimed it a definitive reason to return.
We both left utterly satisfied but slightly saddened. Why? Because this was the first we’ve ever graced this fine establishment. Drunken Fish’s magnificent flavors have been absent from our lives for years—but no more.
Wonderfully worthy of repeat visits, you too should add this to your regular rotation. Sooner, not later.
Find Drunken Fish on Facebook
Sunday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
4410 Highland Road
This article was originally published in the May 2022 issue of 225 magazine.