New Orleans and Staten Island have these few things in common: both are south of Manhattan, both sit on water, both get stereotyped in the popular imagination. Bayou, located in the Clifton neighborhood of Staten Island, seeks to bring serious Cajun and Creole cooking to New York City.
The maple peach BBQ pork ($9.50) arrived on skewers. What differentiated them from so many other hunks of meat hung on a stick was the sweet sauce. We could actually taste the peach, which nicely offset the smoke.
Frankly, we were a little disappointed with our grilled alligator sausage and shrimp salad ($10.50) topped with a nice blue cheese tomato salsa. We ordered it in part to cross "alligator" off the 100 Foods to Eat Before You Die list that landed on our Facebook timeline a few months ago, but this version was so salty and indifferentiable from a hot dog that we're not sure it counts.
The wonderful mishmash that was the jammin' jambalaya ($19) included chicken, andouille sausage, peas, rice, celery, tomato, onions, and basil. While admittedly this dish doesn't take much to master, Bayou's version succeeded, and the basil provided an unexpected pungent twist.
The riverboat crab cakes ($23) were two meaty, lumpy balls, pan fried and stratified with crab. Although the light sauce—Worcestershire, capers, onions, tomatoes, and, pleasingly, razored slivers of garlic—smelled fishy, it wasn't. Instead, it was summery and tasted appropriately of the sea. We liked too the crab cakes' gentle sear.
Bayou takes the New Orleans theme far, maybe too far, with Louis Armstrong's entire oeuvre looping on the stereo and movie posters for NOLA-set classics like Mardis Gras Massacre adorning the walls. The purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras beads that hang from nearly every available surface may leave some fighting the urge to lift up their tops. But as the candles flick shadows across the brick walls and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" starts up, you remember just what a sexy city New Orleans is. With its colorful Crescent City charm, Bayou is best for: a date you'd like to get steamy with.