The owners of the new Roux Bistro on Lemmon Avenue have done a fine job at stripping the restaurant of any reminders of its past life as Tallywackers, a novelty establishment often described as the "male version of Hooter's." The decor is mild and inoffensive, the playlist oscillating between Amy Winehouse and smooth jazz covers of "Girl From Ipanema."
Roux Bistro takes its name from the most important ingredient in any gumbo: roux, the thickening agent made with flour and fat. With a name like roux, you'd expect to find a damn good gumbo on this menu. In this case, you'd be wrong.
Roux describes itself as a "Mediterranean- and Louisiana-inspired fresh fish and seafood restaurant and bar," and even during lunch, the menu is massive. Tacos, po'boys, salmon sliders, octopus, burgers, Manhattan clam chowder. Mixed in with chicken oreganato and ahi tuna poke, you'll find spaghetti carbonara, a rack of lamb and a $42 filet mignon with lobster tail. It's a menu so large and unwieldy, it's hard to imagine that any mid-sized kitchen – let alone one that's only three weeks old – could excel at any one thing.
But Roux being named Roux, the Cajun dishes seemed like an apt place to start. A cup of seafood gumbo ($5) proved lacking in its most important facet: the roux. While adequately spicy, this gumbo felt weak and flabby, the roux coming across more gelatinous and less like that rich, dark soul that infuses itself into a good gumbo. The shrimp inside my cup were those teeny tiny salad shrimp that tasted as if they'd been frozen a lifetime; having lived for seven years in Cajun country, I learned early on that seeing these tiny shrimp in the appetizer is not a good sign of what's to come.
And indeed, the oyster po'boy ($10) proved wanting in its most important aspect: the bread. A po'boy served on anything other than French bread is just a sandwich; this is an inalienable facet of this storied Southern sandwich. The French bread should be light and airy on the inside with a perfectly crunchy crust. The bread on Roux's po'boy, while inoffensive and seemingly fresh, seemed to be just a regular little loaf of white bread, no crust, no crunch, no lagniappe. The breading on the fried oysters was greasy and overbearing, and the ho-hum herbed fries tasted of an abundance of stale dried herbs.
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In an interview with GuideLive, Roux co-owner Theodore Koutsogeorgas recommended the branzino and blackened red fish and perhaps, had I focused on seafood and less on Louisiana staples, my meal might have had a better outcome. But with a menu this large and unwieldy, it seems unlikely that the average diner will be able to find the tastiest needle in the haystack. This new eatery is young and has time to work out the kinks or perhaps streamline the menu, but in the meantime, it needs to seek out its most important missing ingredient: soul.
Roux Bistro, 4218 Lemmon Ave.