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A Taste of New Orleans at CreoLa

Crawfish is flown in weekly from Mardi Gras time through the summer at CreoLa.

Crawfish is flown in weekly from Mardi Gras time through the summer at CreoLa.

Edwin Caba may be of Dominican heritage.

But he sure knows his Big Easy cuisine.

Indeed, he’s been cooking up New Orleans-style dishes at CreoLa in San Carlos for more than 16 years.

He was hired at the restaurant as its sous chef, having trained at the owners’ other New Orleans-inflected establishment in San Diego. When they were ready to retire, Caba bought the place.

Creole-Cajun cooking is so distinctive that it often gets lost in translation when it’s transplanted elsewhere, with chefs mistakenly substituting fiery heat for complexity.

Not so here, as I found out recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Caba goes the extra mile, as is evident from one taste of the seafood gumbo. There is a rich, depth of flavor you can’t miss. It’s the result of the TLC put into the roux. In fact, the gumbo roux is going on three years old, Caba says. Similar to a sourdough starter for bread, a portion of the roux is saved each time it’s made, and added to the next batch. A bowl ($8) of it is deep and dark with a few bay shrimp, chunks of crab, slivers of andouille sausage and rice at its center.

You might drive by CreoLa easily on El Camino Real. The low-slung A-frame building looks like an old time-y coffee shop or motel restaurant. Inside, it’s cozy with ceiling fans in the main dining room and friendly waiters who chat easily with regulars and newcomers.

You gotta get your hands dirty. But it's worth it.

You gotta get your hands dirty. But it’s worth it.

From March through summer, Caba flies in about 75 pounds of crawfish weekly from Louisiana. When they arrive, he sends out an email blast to regulars, who crowd in, primped to get their hands messy.

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