“Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo,” Hank Williams sang, long before most of America knew what those dishes are. The 1980s changed all that, when Justin Wilson was on PBS, Paul Prudhomme's cookbooks were on everyone's shelves, and Cajun spice became a culinary cliché.
At Boxing Room, the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review, Justin Simoneaux's food ignores all that recent history. The young chef interprets Cajun and Creole flavors with a contemporary San Francisco sensibility — much like Hibiscus's Sara Kirnon does with Caribbean food and Namu's Dennis Lee does with Korean classics. The dishes that stand out are the ones in which the Louisiana-born chef layers herbs and spices over meat, meat over slowly sautéed aromatic vegetables and, in the case of his gumbo, aromatics over a roux cooked so slowly that that the flour and fat turn deep brown without burning. In Simoneaux's case, patience always rewards.