Creole cooking, cocktails & hot sauce

A taste of the Bayou at Baron Samedi, a Cajun/Creole-inspired bar and restaurant in Rosemont.

Baron Samedi shrimps with voodoo sauce
Voodoo Style shrimp and corn gumbo
With Montreal groaning under the weight of winter lately, I sought out a place to raise my temperature. I needed good drinks and spicy food to shake off the ice, hence Baron Samedi Snack Bar. While it was a slog to get out to this Louisianan-themed locale on the easternmost reaches of Rosemont, it offered that lagniappe some friends and I needed this February.

At first glance, the novelty of the atmosphere alone draws you in. The latest project from serial entrepreneur François Forest, Baron Samedi opened late last summer with Mitch Brown as the chef. Displaying care and consideration towards the theme, every inch of the place is decked with totems and trinkets reminiscent of the Bayou and Big Easy, from voodoo shrines to an elaborate light fixture constructed from trombones. Despite the hype surrounding the place, the establishment was surprisingly empty for a hockey night when our party arrived, with the bar acting as a watering hole for Rosemont residents. We had the kitchen to ourselves.

The Bloody Creole
The Bloody Creole

A sazerac ($8) makes for a great appertif as you scan the menu. A classic New Orleans cocktail, it preps the stomach with its mix of rye, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe, sugar and a hefty lemon twist. However, for a drink to invoke Baron Samedi’s debaucherous spirit, opt for the Bloody Créole ($9.50). With a Cajun spice rim on the glass, banana peppers floating in the boozy juice for a piquant kick and garnished with a hefty slice of bacon (you read that right: bacon), it’s a great way to start laughing in the face of excess. If you’re not one for cocktails, the bar’s Baron du blonde is a great European-style pilsner with a clear, sweet taste ($6 a pint, $18 a pitcher).

The degustation started off with a couple of selections from the Snacks menu, all generously priced at $7 apiece. First came the Cannibale de boeuf Black & Blue, a slab of tartare with hints of smoke and vinegar accompanied with grilled slices of house cornbread: A good start. It was our bad luck that the kitchen was out of frog legs, so the mac n’ cheese balls had to satisfy our desire to eat something fried for the second snack — this turned out to be the first highlight of the evening. Topped with a dark roux sauce packed with cayenne, chilli and bacon fat unique to Créole/Cajun cuisine, they crunched as I cut to their gooey centres. The balls came with a large, halved, breaded ‘n’ fried jalapeno pepper stuffed with a straightforward cream sauce that didn’t wow too much, but had plenty of zest when combined with the provided dollop of spinach tapenade on the plate.

I suppose my bad luck persisted, as I was told the menu’s shrimp po’boy I was looking forward to wouldn’t be available, so I settled for pulled pork (both $12). Hoping it would be classically served on French bread, I found the toasted Kaiser bun sufficed for the juicy meat and its creamy, home-style dressing, reminiscent of Campbell’s tomato soup. Just like momma would’ve made. Satisfyingly spicier than the last two offerings, the plate earned extra points for its sides of red cabbage ‘slaw, seasoned fries and spicy mayo.

The sandwich was more influenced by than emblematic of N’awlins cuisine, so it seemed only proper to try the fried chicken ($9 for three pieces, $11.50 for four, $14 for five). This was definitely another highlight of the night. With a light battering and seasoned in a way that tasted of the Cajun/Creole holy trinity of onion, bell pepper and celery, every bite was greasily gut-busting in the best way and refreshed by intermittent bites of the ‘slaw that came with the aforementioned pork po’boy.

The only misgiving here was its side of jalapeno salsa, which was more of a ramekin of green water. One of my friends fancied himself someone who could withstand hot sauces I’d call regrettable, and just before he voiced any disappointment, the server came along to point out the hot sauce cupboard on the back wall. Now he tells us! Replete with selections ranging from pleasantly shocking to more deathly shades of the Scoville scale, the cupboard included a “Wall of Flame,” a plaque commemorating brave souls who dared sauces with names like Colon Cleaner or Dave’s Ultimate Insanity. After poking around, all I’ll say is that the ghost pepper sauce is definitely not for the faint of heart, but certainly for the brave.

Pulled pork poutine
Pulled pork poutine

With a bit of space left in our bellies, my friends and I ordered up a half-panier de gombos au maïs Voodoo Style to share, a plate of shrimp grilled in their shells and chopped corn-on-the-cob. Some folks might be squeamish when it comes to eating the chitin shells of shrimp, but when it comes to this dish, chow down on the whole thing. It’s the shells that carried the marinade with a citrus tang they’d been brushed with, plus the slight char of the grill. Without the shell, the shrimp wasn’t much on the tongue, though the flavour made its way into the succulent corn cob pieces. Unfortunately, the dish’s promised voodoo sauce was a red version of the fried chicken’s green water, so back to the Wall of Flame we went.

By the end of the meal, we were all amply stuffed for less than $50 (not including drinks). While Baron Samedi might seem to place a heavy emphasis on libations with its extensive selection of booze, be sure to take its well-rounded menu for a spin. I know I’ll be going back for those frog legs and shrimp po’boy.
3135 Masson, 514-507-3135