At most restaurants, behind-the-bar activities include popping off the tops of beer bottles, shaking cocktails, and cutting lemons into wedges. At Jimmy G’s Cajun Seafood Restaurant, the staff boils crawfish and shucks fresh oysters behind the bar, granting customers the opportunity to see seafood preparation and check oysters for leftover pearls. Guests then dig into these southern specialties and others, including shrimp creole, crawfish étouffée, broiled catfish, grilled choice-cut ribeye, broiled redfish, chicken-and-sausage gumbo.
Whenever a customer orders a side of hush puppies, Seafood Cafe manager Asad Jawad likes to joke with them a bit. "Ma'am, there is a little problem," he'll say. "When I got these puppies, they were little, and now they are grown dogs." Whether or not this elicits a chuckle, it only takes a glance at the eatery's portion sizes to see what Asad means. At Seafood Cafe, helpings of Cajun-style seafood are as generous as the staff is friendly.
That should be no surprise, since Seafood Cafe is built on a foundation of friendship. Asad and his friends John Herpin and Misael Cortez, also known as The Three Amigos, started the restaurant after they met working at another eatery five years ago. Bringing together traditional recipes from Louisiana with their restaurant-industry experience, they mix up each recipe with their own twist. The cuisine blends classic Cajun dishes such as blackened catfish and gumbo with Mexican-inflected meals including tilapia tacos. The trio only cooks up food they feel passionate about, and will even distribute free samples to convert people to the menu's more unique flavors. They also plan to encourage big appetites with a wall of fame that will honor those patrons who have made the most of the menu's all-you-can-eat catfish option. And on the weekends, jazz and reggae bands play, filling the dining room with jaunty melodies to match spicy Cajun scents.
Southern Italian dishes adorn white linen tablecloths inside both locations of Little Napoli Italian Cuisine. Chefs plate casual classics such as baked ziti and calzones as well as more elaborate entrees such as linguine pescatore, loaded with shrimp, calamari, clams, and mussels. The downtown location heats up its griddles for breakfast on weekday mornings, and the Westheimer location dishes out brunch fare such as omelets, waffles, and Napoli pasta on Saturdays and Sundays. Also on Westheimer Road, Friday nights entertain patrons with karaoke, and both locations host a VIP private-dining section that can seat up to 40 people or one very hungry velociraptor.
Alberto Alfonzo, the chef and owner of Pesca World Seafood Restaurant, has spent the majority of his 21-year culinary career cooking seafood. His love for underwater edibles stretches to all corners of the world, including Spain, Asia, Peru, the coastal United States, and the Caribbean. “Our dishes are representations of different countries and continents as well as local,” Alfonzo says.
Pesca’s brunch and dinner menus are peppered with international specialties such as grilled red snapper veracruz, valencian black rice, and the chef’s personal favorite, portuguese seafood stew. A trio of turf selections includes New Zealand lamp chops, a center-cut fillet, and roasted pork carnitas. The menu also lists organic and gluten-free options.
Thanks to a special license issued by Dionysus himself, the restaurant offers a wide selection of wines at retail price. Guests can savor a fish and white-wine pairing out on Pesca’s outdoor patio, a romantic spot adorned with palm trees and water fountains.
The Fish Place ebbs cravings for Cajun fare with platefuls of deep-fried and grilled tilapia, blackened catfish, and creole favorites. Dinner guests edify taste buds by licking scientific journals or introducing them to dapper appetizers, such as the shrimp brochette, crab ball, or stuffed jalapeño. Then chefs immerse five pieces of catfish, tilapia, oyster, shrimp, or chicken tenders in a deep fryer and serve the crispy morsels with garlic bread and two selections of jambalaya rice, Cajun fries, or hush puppies. For quick nourishment between meetings or poetry throw-downs, the kitchen yields portable eats such as po boys and crawfish étouffée.
The River Oaks sushi stop serves up fresh seafully inclined fare for lunch and dinner daily. For dinner, start with an order of salt-and-pepper shrimp (jumbo shrimp stir-fried with sweet sautéed onions, $7) or the southern-battered fried oysters ($7) with cocktail and tartar sauce. Nigiri selections such as super white tuna ($3.50) or unagi ($2.50) pepper the sushi menu alongside elegant rolled treats such as the tiger-eye roll ($7.50) filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, jalapeño, and spicy mayonnaise, and the signature Fins roll ($9), an inside-out roll with spicy crab and tuna, topped with masago, green onion, more crab, and more tuna. Elegant entrees will please the forkfully inclined, including the miso-marinated sea bass ($25) with stir-fried fresh veggies and the juicy rib-eye steak ($25) served with the chef's daily side.