The Not-So Cajun Experience

A week ago the Washington Post ran a review of a newish Creole place on 18th St. below Lauriol Plaza called The Cajun Experience. Opened in February, it’s actually the second location of a Leesburg restaurant. In his review, Justin Rude’s main point is that this place has got an outstanding lunch special–basically any three items for $15.

Perhaps I should have taken his advice and tried lunch, but I went for dinner, excited to taste a little New Orleans. In retrospect, Rude’s focus on lunch could be taken as another way of saying, don’t go for the ambiance. But on the food front, I wasn’t disappointed. There is a lot to explore on the menu, so I went for a sampler: gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, rice and beans. Of them, the jambalaya and the etouffee were the two that disappeared. A special crocodile jambalaya didn’t fare so well. It was actually hard to taste much other than heat, but sometimes that’s okay. Like when you’re slurping down dark and stormys, or cooling it down with very excellent collard greens and corn bread.

The food was a nice fix, which is why I feel bad saying the experience didn’t leave much of an impression. The space has potential, but someone forgot to make an effort to give it any vibe at all. Seems to me, some good big band music or even zydeco would be a huge addition. Or how about instead of the big screen TVs, some candles? My final tip: Pace the food. This is heavy fare, and it would go down easier after the first sazerac. Instead, drinks and apps come concurrently, and mains moments after they are finished. They may have gotten some of the flavors right, but the scene and service are far from authentic.

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