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Cajun Pacific

N’awlins Cooking in the Outer Sunset

Next to a narrow shop selling vivid seashell necklaces and scarves sits Cajun Pacific Restaurant, a small slice of New Orleans in the Sunset. This little joint serves supper Thursday through Saturday, with a menu that changes weekly and includes classics such as gumbo ($6 cup, $7 bowl), bread pudding with whiskey sauce ($6), and andouille sausage corndogs ($8). Despite the intimate setting and the opportunity to don the Mardi Gras beads, we found the cooking uneven; the menu would benefit from a move away from the Pacific, and a concentration on the Cajun.

On our visit, the place was lively, and the menu included crawfish beignets with remoulade ($9), pulled pork with sweet onion gravy ($16), and crawfish Monica ($16). We were most enthusiastic about the beignets, but -- as it goes with a small establishment -- they were all gone by 8pm. Instead, we nibbled on Cajun Pacific’s delicious (and complimentary) warm chipotle corn muffins, buttered and steaming. Next, we made a foray into fried green heirloom tomatoes with remoulade ($8), and grilled crab cakes with tarragon, mango and brie ($10).

The tomatoes were good -- fried golden and paired with the remoulade, though there seemed to be too much breading. It’s hard to believe anyone could go wrong with crab cakes, but these weren’t right; they were as big as Fourth of July hamburger patties, not fully cooked, slightly charred on the outside and topped, inexplicably, with mango and cheese. We found both the presentation and taste combination a bit silly. But, they tasted somewhat better with some of the spicy remoulade.

After this misstep, the gumbo was a welcome relief -- no doubt one of the best gumbos we’ve tasted west of the Mississippi. The broth was a spicy, rich, flavorful concoction, with generous portions of shrimp and sausage. We ate every last drop.

Next came the crawfish Monica: cork-screw pasta with a slightly pink pasta sauce that looked and tasted processed, and the pulled pork, a runny sort of sloppy-Joe version of a Southern classic; both were disappointments. The pulled pork came with a choice of sides. Here we tried the asparagus gratin, the sweet potato gratin, and the garlic mashed potatoes. The asparagus was simply a few spears decorated with a bit of cheese -- hardly a “gratin,” particularly since the cheese wasn’t melted. The mashed potatoes were mediocre and bland, skins included, but the sweet potato gratin was a delight -- cheesy and flavorful, with small layered disks of potato and a warm, crispy crust on top; we kept going back for more bites.

Cajun Pacific’s beverage menu offered a few uninteresting Wattle Creek wines ($8 a glass) and your typical beer and soda choices ($2-3). For dessert we tried the bread pudding, but found it dry and maybe even a bit stale. Service was a mite slow, but understandable with one server, one cook, one prep, and a busboy. In some ways, it felt like we were sitting comfortably in someone’s kitchen.

Though the setting was friendly and funky, and there were those standouts, the food at Cajun Pacific wasn’t particularly impressive. There were rumors of po boys, but none on our menu, and the cooking felt a bit erratic, making a diner wish the chef would stick to the classics and continue to build on those items that work, instead of changing the menu weekly. If you’re a gumbo lover, it’s worth a try, but not necessarily worth too much trek or trouble.

Outer Sunset

Reservations essential? Yes.

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