Good old southern comfort food: The Creole Restaurant and Café

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Inspired by Louisiana-style Creole (kree-ohl) cuisine, the recently-opened Creole Restaurant and Café in Alkhobar offers a taste of New Orleans, a city in the US, and of its rich heritage.
Creole culture and cuisine is known for its immigrant and colonial influences, from Native Americans, French and Spanish immigrants, African slaves and Caribbean people. Central to Creole cuisine is the use of herbs, spices, seafood, rice, bread, corn and gravy, which, in some ways, is very similar to Saudi cuisine.
Ahmed Al-Omair, managing partner of the restaurant, was inspired by Creole and Cajun (the name for French settlers who originally came from Acadia in Canada) cooking while pursuing higher education in Lafayette, Louisiana. His host family welcomed him into their kitchen, and taught him the essentials of Creole cooking techniques. Al-Omair experimented with various recipes and developed a taste for well-known Creole dishes such as jambalaya (a spicy dish of rice, vegetables, and meat) and gumbo (a thick stew flavored with meat or seafood broth and okra).
Fueled by a new-found passion for Cajun food, and the similarities between the food of New Orleans and Saudi Arabia, Al-Omair partnered with four of his friends to open The Creole Restaurant and Café in November of last year. The décor uses elements typical to French Creole mansions — high ceilings, plush furniture and tall windows.
Working with an international chef to develop recipes, Al-Omair put together an authentic Louisiana-style menu that has found appeal with Americans and other residents in the Eastern Province. As an entrée, we tried the French onion soup (a caramelized onion soup served with cheese bread) and a typical Southern comfort food — macaroni and cheese — served as bite-sized fried balls. The entrées are priced at SR31 and SR29, respectively.
The summer melon salad, with its unique presentation and combination of watermelon, cantaloupe, feta cheese and pomegranate dressing is a sweet and tart appetizer, priced at SR36. The quinoa salad, priced at SR39, is served with beetroot, pomegranate and balsamic vinegar.
Some of the popular main courses at The Creole Restaurant and Café include: The dark roux gumbo, priced at SR50 that uses a mixture of flour and oil with the addition of beans and Cajun seasoning. The blackened shrimp risotto uses a special spice mix and spinach to give it a distinct appearance and is priced at SR52. The etouffee (ay-too-fay), priced at SR55, is a seafood gravy-like sauce served over a bed of rice.
Beverage options are varied and include innovative mocktails, like the lemongrass breezer and ginger apple (SR20) and mojitos, as well as the passion fruit mojito and lychee mojito (SR23).
Coffee and dessert options range from the traditional caramel date cake (SR35) and Turkish coffee (SR16) to a distinctive velvet marshmallow fondant (SR40) and iced latte (SR16).

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