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Evil Penevil

The Gumbo House Cajun Restaurant in Jomtien

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Posted Yesterday, 09:48 AM

The Gumbo House Cajun Seafood Restaurant & Bar is a small restaurant towards the south end of Jomtien Beach Road.
I'll post a map at the end of the review. 
It's been open since May and is operated by an American man from Louisiana and his Thai wife.
 According to the Gumbo House Website:  "We're from Louisiana and we brought our love of Louisiana's Cajun food and our Cajun recipes with us to Thailand. We're also Thai, so, we serve Thai food for those of us who can't go a day without our famous local delicacies."
As the name proclaims, it is focused on Cajun cuisine and seafood, but also has an extensive menu of Thai dishes. It's open from 11.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.
I'm not going into too much background in this review, but Cajun is a regional style of cooking that originated among French settlers called Acadians who had been kicked out of Canada in the mid-1700s. 
For at least 150 years they lived an isolated existence in Louisiana's swamps and bayous, eking out a living under tough circumstances.  They spoke a dialect of French and kept very much to themselves, developing their own cuisine, music and folkways. Except for some parishes (counties) in Louisiana, Cajun cooking was largely unknown in the U.S. before the 1980s.  I'll give more background in a separate post.
The Gumbo House does seem a good place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sun go down.
From the GH Website:
The cocktails at GH aren't expensive.
I noticed the list feature the Hurricane, a sweet, fruity cocktail that's almost become a symbol for New Orleans but is seldom served elsewhere.  It consists of equal portions of light rum,  dark rum and passion fruit syrup, plus orange juice and a splash of lime for extra flavor.  In the Big Easy, it's often served in special glasses shaped like hurricane lamps.  However, New Orleans city law allows the consumption of alcohol in public and for drinks to be carried from bars, but not in glasses.  Many Hurricane cocktails are therefore sold in plastic cups, especially during Mardi Gras.
I had lunch Tuesday with a friend at the Gumbo House.    We were both eager to see what such a rarity as a Cajun restaurant in Pattaya would have to offer. There's a two-fold problem with Cajun cooking:  1) much of what is called Cajun cooking really isn't, and 2) "authentic" doesn't necessarily mean "delicious" or even "good."   Plenty of authentic regional dishes in all cuisines taste horrible to outsiders.  
So to cut to the chase:  Was the cuisine at Gumbo House authentic?  Yes, it was.  Was it good?  Well,  I won't be rushing back to try it again.  I wanted to like the Gumbo House, I really did,  as it's always a positive thing to support small, family-run businesses that try something new. I would rather be writing a rave review, but I can't. The best that can be said about the food we had is that it was average. It didn't taste bad; it just didn't taste much at all. And there were a couple of misses in the service that didn't make things better.
Here's an excerpt from the Gumbo House menu:
The appetizers are smaller servings of main courses- and that's a good idea when it comes to an unfamiliar cuisine like Cajun.  The diner can try more of it that way.  My friend ordered the chicken and sausage gumbo as his starter and I chose the seafood gumbo. He went for the shrimp étouffée as his main and I asked for the jambalaya.  Gumbo and jambalaya are the two dishes most closely associated with Cajun cooking and étouffée would come a close third.  After a few minutes, the young waiter came back to say the jambalaya was "finished."
That's unlikely, since we there at 1.30 p.m. and the restaurant had opened at 11.00 a.m.  It probably would have been more accurate to say it hadn't finished cooking, or even that it hadn't started cooking.   Anyway, I ordered the étouffée instead.
Gumbo is a thick soup and Cajun gumbo should be close to the consistency of a stew.  It was.   :thumbup  A Cajun gumbo has a base of roux, a flour and oil mixture that cooked together and gives the gumbo its dark brown color.  It's also supposed to impart a nutty flavor, but I couldn't detect that. I could taste the shrimp, some shreds of crab, a bit of heat and not much else.
In a sense, that's how a Cajun gumbo is supposed to be, so it was authentic. MM said his gumbo had plenty of chicken and sausage.  He let me taste a piece of the sausage and it was some sort of German smoked sausage and not the proper andouille.  I don't really hold that against them.  Where the hell are you going find andouille sausage and tasso ham in Thailand? But it's also true that German sausage can't add the right flavor.  It's a bit of a Catch-22 moment.  The overall rating on the gumbo:  OK, but not better.
The bread that came with the gumbo wasn't French but sliced bread from 7-11. Sacré bleu!  The other odd thing was that after a rather long wait, both the gumbo and étouffée came at the same time.  Gumbo is the type of dish that should be made ahead of time and left to sit overnight so the flavors meld.  One would think they'd bring out the bowls of reheated gumbo while making the étouffée, but that didn't happen. As a result, the étouffée went cold and congealed while we were eating the gumbo.
Étouffée means "smothered" in French and "smothering" is a cooking technique typical of Cajun cuisine.  Meat and/or vegetables are cooked with a small amount of liquid over low heat until ready.  It's similar to braising but with less liquid. The sauce tends to be a bit bland as it's not supposed to overwhelm the main ingredient, usually crayfish or shrimp.
Again, I'd say the etouffée was OK but not better.  Add the misses with service to the lackluster food and you get a rather disappointing dining experience.   I may try it again if I can hitch a ride with someone, but I'll call first to make sure jambalaya is being served that day.
The whole about Cajun cooking doesn't make a lot of sense without more background, but I'll save that for a separate post.
A map for those who want to try Gumbo House.  The baht buses usually end at Soi Chaiyaphruek, so you have to hike a bit to the restaurant.  If you have your own wheels, parking is easy.

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Discussions and reviews about Cajun food tend to get complicated because much of what is called "Cajun" really isn't.  Cajun cuisine was hardly known outside of Louisiana until the 1980's when it was made famous by celebrity chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.  
However, what they served up in their restaurants and on their TV shows wasn't traditional Cajun food but a fusion between Creole and Cajun styles plus plenty of their own original touches. For example, blackening is a cooking technique associated with Cajun cuisine thanks to Prudhomme and his "blackened redfish," a dish which became a national craze 40 years ago.  Thing is, blackening is a technique Prudhomme invented and which had no basis whatsoever in Cajun cooking. It was- and is-  a delicious way of preparing fish and other proteins, but it sure wasn't Cajun. 
Authentic Cajun food was heavy and bland. To make it more appealing and acceptable to a broader public, the New Orleans' celebrity chefs "kicked things up a notch."  They added a lot of bold flavors and spices.   Other, lesser-known chefs took things even farther.  Cajun food is often regarded today as fiery hot along the lines of some Mexican, Indian and Szechuan dishes, but that isn't true historically.  That's purely a modern twist.
 And I haven't even gotten into the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine! 

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Thanks for posting that. 

As I started to read I'm thinking cool I'll have to try that. Then I get put off. Finally when reading the second part I understand more about the cuisine and know that it's the modern version I'd be after. 

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Another of the 100s of food options in Pattaya ... It’s on the to do list ;)

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