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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Acme vegan

If you're any kind of vegetarian, you probably think you know at a glance which restaurants never to set foot in -- and you're usually right! So I'm thrilled to report an amazing meal Johnny and I had at a seemingly unlikely restaurant -- Metairie's Acme Oyster House! Whoda thunk it?!

Initially, things went as expected -- we got question-mark expressions at the front door from the first couple of staffers who tried to help. But then they whipped out their kitchen manager, Michelle Matlock, and our journey to tastiness began!

Michelle was exceptionally well-versed in her ingredients. She ran through the menu pointing out all the things that could be veganized. She also thanked us for "proving her point": the very same day, she had written a directive to her C.O.O. regarding the restaurant's lack of options for vegan and gluten-intolerant diners. She said that Acme Oyster House has been around for a hundred years, and needs to catch up with the times. Awesome!!!

We chose a table in a windowed room, where our server worked with Michelle to give us an absolutely amazing, and totally unexpected, dining experience. Comme hors-d'oeuvre, we ordered a veganized Remoulade Martini. Instead of the usual shrimp, chunks of roasted vegetables took the leading role in this performance in a martini glass. They were bathed in a remoulade sauce and sat on shredded lettuce. A delectable decoration of olives and okra on a toothpick adorned the top of the creation.

The fanciness of this appetizer -- along with the rich flavor -- was enough to make my night. But there were more surprises to come! The main dish that followed was nothing short of outstanding -- the most amazing deep-fried onion rings IN THE WORLD atop a gigantic heap of artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, baby carrots, mushrooms, squash, and zucchini in a reduction sauce bursting with flavor, heaped over yellow rice, and framed with pear slices on one side and pickled, peppered green beans on the other.

THERE WERE EVEN SCRIBBLES OF SAUCE AROUND THE BORDER OF THE PLATE.

I don't care what something tastes like, if you drizzle sauce around it, COUNT ME IN. But sauce aside, we couldn't get over the intense flavors that melded together in this colorful mountain of deliciousness. I felt sorry for everyone else at the table eating oysters or whatever they had -- I didn't actually notice. My description cannot possibly do it justice, but trust me at least when I say, this was no pile of veggie boredom. It was magnificent.

Johnny and I were stuffed by the time we had cleaned up our plates, but when our server came back around to ask if anyone wanted dessert, I couldn't resist asking if there was a vegan option. Sure enough, our favorite chef came through for us once again, delivering an enormous goblet of Cherry Remoulade topped with...whipped cream???!! Michelle accompanied this finale to the table to explain that the whip was absolutely dairy-free -- thanks to the fact that it was the cheap stuff. "Basically hydrogenated canola oil," she assured us. As a person that normally steers clear of cis-turned-trans fats, I dove into the dessert like there was no tomorrow. After all, it's not every day that you happen upon a seafood-centered restaurant with a kitchen manager so willing to go out of her way to make a couple of vegan diners at home. Thank you Michelle! I hope more vegans come your way.*

*A final note to those potential vegan customers: This all went down at Acme's Metairie location and Michelle did add that it would be wise to call ahead and make sure she's there before dashing over for a NOLA-style vegan feast. Otherwise, you will probably find yourself eating rabbit food as you feared!
**UPDATED FEB. 11, 2011: Michelle Matlock no longer works for Acme Oyster.

Acme Oyster House ~ 3000 Veterans Blvd. ~ Metairie, LA 70005 ~ (504) 309-4056