Coastal gem in an Island View setting
GULFPORT –Emeril Lagasse is as kicked up about his tenth restaurant as he was about his first, and as he gave the Sun Herald a sneak peek of the new Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House on Tuesday he revealed he’d just bought the space he’s leased for 17 years for his first restaurant, Emeril’s in New Orleans.”This is pretty exciting,” he said as dozens of chefs and waitstaff cooked and set tables. Emeril cookbooks and T-shirts were shelved and casino guests poked their heads around the black curtains for a look at Emeril’s Gulfport creation.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD - Chef Emeril Lagasse gives a tour of his new restaurant Gulf Coast Fish House inside the Island View Casino Tuesday afternoon.
They couldn’t see much beyond the walls that curve around the bar and dining rooms, except the thousands of hand-cut crystal bubbles that float from the ceiling. “I can’t wait for you to see it at night,” Lagasse said.
The curtain that separates the restaurant from the casino floor will open on cue this evening. About 400 invited guests were expected to attend the celebration but more than twice that number returned their RSVPs and sent a contribution to the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. The restaurant opens to the public Friday.
For me it’s more than just opening another restaurant,” said Lagasse. His wife, Alden, grew up in Gulfport and many of the staff members are from the Coast. Chef de cuisine Steve D’Angelo, general manager Jason Lonigro and their staff of 90 “are here for the long haul,” which includes buying fresh fish and produce from local fish boats and farmers.
Although it’s his tenth opening, Lagasse is concerned about meeting expectations. He’s brought chefs and managers from New Orleans and his other restaurants to train the staff and make a good first impression.
Guests will be impressed with both the décor and cuisine. Earthtones are mixed with sea colors and art Alden chose to reflect the beach location. A 4,000-bottle wine tower separates dining rooms from the entrance and curved banquettes look out on the open kitchen, the beach or the landscaping that will one day be the hotel’s pool and spa. Those who choose can relax on the wraparound porch with a breeze, a drink, a selection from the bar menu and “probably the best view on the Coast.
The views inside are remarkable, too. A food bar is open to the kitchen with four rows of tables behind it. The tables with inlaid colored glass were considered too beautiful to cover, said Lagasse, a self-described white tablecloth kind of guy.
Like the décor, the menu is a mix of earth and sea. He calls his cuisine coastal Creole and his kitchen a state-of-the-art laboratory. “Everything is from scratch,” right down to the Worcestershire sauce, he said.
Even a day before the grand opening the menu was still being tweaked. “We made some changes, all good,” said Lagasse, who put Portuguese shrimp and pasta on the menu for his mom, Hilda, and Southern dishes like shrimp and grits and andouille sausage-crusted Texas redfish. Side dishes also have Southern flair. Trademark appetizers and desserts such as Emeril’s New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp and famous banana cream pie join new selections such as baked Gulf oysters and jumbo lump crabcakes with corn maque choux.
He brings more than a new restaurant to the Coast’s recovery; Lagasse has created excitement in the community and enthusiasm among his young staff. “They’re so happy and proud to be a part of this whole thing.
By MARY PEREZ