First Bite

Tom Sietsema's preview of Bayou in Foggy Bottom

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Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My soda arrives in a Mason jar, po' boys are streaming out of the kitchen and the brassy background music in the ground-floor dining room seems to be piped in from New Orleans.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Bayou, which replaced the semi-private Rookery near the Foggy Bottom Metro on New Year's Eve. The owners, including Bo Blair, remain the same, and there's still live music on the menu (Wednesdays through Saturdays upstairs). What's new at the two-story location are lunch as well as dinner service and former Eatonville chef Rusty Holman in the kitchen.

The guy whips up a satisfying shrimp-packed gumbo, its fire gentle but steady, and he lets customers cram oysters and fried shrimp into their po' boys when they can't decide between the two. I'd prefer more spirit in my jambalaya; the chef's high-rise of rice, chicken, shrimp and sausage is undeniably elegant, the rim of its bowl striped with red lines of gunpowder (a mix of cayenne, chili pepper and oregano).

In a spin on a crowd-pleaser, Holman offers a single pork "wing": a tender front shank glazed with apple-pepper jelly, topped with frizzled onions and poised on a creamy slaw. The bartender has a different way of looking at things, too. Instead of a sidecar, he pours a Streetcar: cognac, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur rather than the expected Cointreau. Try one, and you'll want another.

Scan the chalkboard for the daily specials, including half-price wine on Sundays and barbecue on Fridays.

Red beans and rice are the draw on Tuesdays; shouldn't that dish be appearing on Mondays, per New Orleans tradition?

"It would be if we were open," says Holman.

2519 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-223-6941. bayouonpenn.com. Po' boys, $9.95 to $12.95; entrees, $17.95 to $23.95.


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