Vijay Shastri’s new restaurant, Mr. Frog’s Creole and Soul Kitchen, opens in earnest this weekend at 42 Market Street. The restaurant serves authentic Creole classics that have been hard to come by in the area since Twin Cousin’s Kitchen closed. The Southern-soul side of the menu includes pulled pork ($8), fried white fish ($9), chicken and dumplings ($6.50) and buttermilk-fried chicken ($7.50). Sides include mac and cheese, collards, corn on the cob — that sort of thing.
We’re particularly enamored of the New Orleans-style Creole dishes. Think gumbo with a deeply layered heat and good depth of flavor from a nutty, dark roux, bone-in chicken and North Carolina-made andouille. You can order it filled with with large, fresh shrimp for a few dollars more. Think properly dark, thick and spicy crawfish étouffée, slow-roasted boneless short ribs (I mean really slow — 14-hours slow) wrapped in bacon and served in a flavorful herb gravy (“That’s my ‘meatloaf,’” says Shastri).
That omnipresent low-country classic, shrimp and grits, is served with sprouted-corn grits, offering a rich, sweet flavor that really sings when mixed with a dairy. It’s a solidly satisfying, rich, old-school version.
The oxtails are great, too, served in an herb-enhanced jus with Shastri’s version of mashed potatoes (which he calls “wonder taters”), enhanced with parsnips and cauliflower for a fluffier texture and deeper flavor (it’s likely that the oxtail dish will vary daily). It’s scattered with fried okra, extra-crispy from the cornmeal mixture that Shastri uses for breading. He mixes coarse-ground meal with a small portion of white-corn grits for a coating that holds its crispness, even when floating in an oxtail jus. Fried green tomatoes benefit from the same breading.
The menu, written on a large chalkboard, will vary. Portions are big and Shastri says he’ll keep the prices low. That dish of gumbo, for example, is big enough for two (or one big eater) and will cost $9 without the shrimp. Mr. Frog’s Soul & Creole Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, call 505-4999 or visit http://www.mrfrogs.com.