Monday, August 18, 2014

Dine on the Bayou: The Little Big Cup

Nestled on Bayou Fuselier, The Little Big Cup reflects the culture of Arnaudville to the fullest. Known as a haven for artists and musicians from around the world, the charm of the city is felt from the moment you arrive.

Off the beaten path, everything about Fuselier Road is picturesque and reminds me of paintings by Larry "Kip" Hayes. Magnolia trees rivaling the size of oak trees decorated in Spanish Moss surround the area. A fiddle repair shop with a hand painted cypress sign sits across from a plantation style home.

Owners Kevin Robin and Sanjay Maharaj bring an eclectic blend of cultures to The Little Big Cup. Kevin, an Arnaudville native, spent 20 years in New York before returning home to work in his family's 5 generation run company: Russell's Food Center. Sanjay worked as a branch manager for Wells Fargo in New York before moving to Arnaudville. Thanks to his attention to detail and his management skills, The Little Big Cup runs like a well-oiled machine.

That attention to detail and customer service is not limited to the owners. Ms. Joycelyn, the Front of House Manager is constantly on the move. Be it seating guests, organizing wait staff or even just visiting tables to inquire about quality of your experience, her focus on the guests is one of the reasons you feel comfortable in the dining room. The wood floors, walls and ceilings bring you back in time where dining out was reserved for special events.

The large family style tables in the center of the restaurant are arranged beneath chandeliers while ceiling fans are quietly whirring above you. It's easy to lose yourself in the atmosphere and get transported to a time when men wore Seersucker suits and women white gloves and hats while out on the town. Servers eagerly move out of your way while you are walking the floors of the restaurant giving the diner the right of way at all times. Our waitress, Cricket Frederick, has been there since the doors opened in 2012 and wears many hats we found out as our night progressed.

Along with a full dinner menu and Chef specials, The Little Big Cup offers a Surf and Turf Buffet on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30p-8:30p.

With the number of dishes offered on the menu and specials created daily by Chef Dean Mitchell, you'd be tempted to forego the buffet and order off the menu. But, be assured, this rustic yet refined buffet is like none you've ever experienced.

Pasta, soup, salads, multiple preparations of fish, prime rib sliced to order, and a fajita station are only a portion of what is available on the extensive buffet.

While we were deciding on our dinner selections, Chef Dean sent out a sampler for us to try. The plate consisted of The Cajun Kevin, the soft shell crab special, and the Louisiana Blue Point crab cake atop fried eggplant.

The Cajun Kevin is a twist on a standard poboy. Staying true to Louisiana roots, and Evangeline Maid poboy bun is toasted and cut into thirds. Each section, after it is hollowed out, is then stuffed with sauteed shrimp, crawfish and lump crab all of which are served in a light sauce similar to au gratin. The lump crab in our Cajun Kevin was sweet and tender and was pouring out of the hollow bread. The seasoning of the entire sandwich was extraordinary and the toasted bun gave the perfect amount of texture.

One of the specials for the night was a fried soft-shell crab on a black-eyed pea cake topped with a crab etouffee. There is normally not much that can be done with black-eyed peas; my grandmother's both served them the same way for years and I have followed suit. The black-eyed pea cake makes sense and reminded me of a black bean burger, but more tender and had better flavor. The combination of crispy sweet crab, black pea cake and creamy etouffee made each bite of the special amazing and memorable.

The final dish from Chef Dean featured a crab cake sitting on fried eggplant, topped with tempura fried asparagus. All of the flavors worked together. Despite the items being fried, the dish felt light and satisfying. The crab cake was delicate and the meat was sweet. It is evident that all the ingredients are fresh and prepared with the utmost care and consideration.

It was impossible to sample all the items on the Surf and Turf Buffet. The items I did try; however, were amazing and were without flaw.

Among the items that I tried were:

Crawfish pasta salad: Creamy and light. The bell pepper in this chilled pasta still had its snap making this dish refreshing and perfect for a picnic on a hot day.

Mozzarella and tomato salad: This mix of sweet, acidic tomatoes and mild, milky cheese is always a favorite of mine. Somehow, they were able to elevate the flavor profiles of both the tomato and cheese.

Braised Pork Shank: This beautiful cut of meat was cooked fork tender and loaded with flavor. With a heat that stayed on your tongue, it borrowed a lot of its flavor and seasoning from pulled pork. All that was left was a clean bone.

Stuffed mushrooms: Again, a dish that everyone has sampled and may have mixed feelings about. You haven't had stuffed mushrooms done right until you have tried these. The caps are delicate and tender. The seafood mix is seasoned spot on and the cheese is melted at the right temperature, adding just enough crunch, texture and depth of flavor.

Praline chicken: Sweet, salty fried chicken. Need I say more?

Although we were satisfied beyond belief, our waitress, Cricket, did not have to work hard to convince us about dessert. With options ranging from Cheesecake to cake balls and homemade ice cream, we relied on her advice. Cricket suggested three desserts for us to try and brought us a sample tray of her favorites and two servings of ice cream.

The plate consisted of White Chocolate Bread Pudding, Italian Cream Cake and Triple Berry Cake. Each dessert had its own unique personality. My wife said the bread pudding reminded her of her Dad's French Toast. The Italian Cream Cake was full of nuts and had an amazing texture. TheTriple Berry Cake was full of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with a hint of lemon zest. The homemade Vanilla ice cream was smooth and the Whiskey Ball ice cream was rich and never moved from in front of me during the dessert course.

"Do you get all these cakes and desserts from local bakers?"

"Well, I make all the desserts here. The bread pudding, the cakes and even the ice cream."

With 20 years experience in a bakery, Cricket is another example of how The Little Big Cup utilizes the talents and skills of its amazing staff to heighten the dining experience. Home- made desserts and ice cream served with love to your table. The entire meal feels natural. It feels comfortable. It feels real.

If you are looking for a return to classic Louisiana flavors or have out of town guests that you are entertaining, The Little Big Cup is an "Eat This" recommendation.

Visit The Little Big Cup on Facebook for hours, menus and pictures of their delicious food.

The Little Big Cup
149 Fuselier Rd
Arnaudville, LA

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