At Cajun-Creole Acadia, the Louisiana Soft-Shell Crab Is Like a Plated Van Gogh

New head chef Seamus Foran successfully aims to create hallmark dishes that aren’t on other Portland menus.

Where to begin at this delightful surprise of a Cajun-creole bistro tucked into a row of faux-Tudor bars on Fremont? Start with the crab—a Louisiana blue soft-shell crab ($14), lightly battered whole with its eight legs akimbo, ready to pick and pull into a bed of cotija cream and pico de gallo made from green tomatoes. It's the single best dish I've had this year, and epitomizes Acadia's strengths: meats and seafoods prepared with bright sauces and a cloudburst of vegetables, like plated van Gogh paintings. Most Cajun joints rely on their jambalayas and gumbo, but while these staples are more than serviceable here—with a dark, spicy stock and plenty of Gulf shrimp—new head chef Seamus Foran successfully aims to create hallmark dishes that aren't on other Portland menus. An almond-crusted sea bream ($26) comes garlanded like a bride, with floral sprigs, corn and more of that blue crab. Hush puppies are stacked like batting-practice baseballs above a marmalade fragrant with orange peel. The hanger steak is larceny at $30—a cut of meat this tender, swimming in a red wine reduction, buoyed by Anna potatoes and local chanterelles, barely seems possible at its price. It's a blissful dream.

GO: 1303 NE Fremont St., 503-249-5001, 5-10 pm. Monday-Saturday, 11:30 am-2 pm Wednesday. $$$

Eat: Any seafood dish is a good bet, but maybe get a lighter one and save room for the steak.

Drink: There's a deep bourbon list, ranging from Old Grand-Dad ($7) to a 23-year Pappy Van Winkle ($85).

Most popular dish: Somebody is Instagramming the crab as we speak.

Noise level: 44/100. It's not a loud restaurant, but it's tightly packed enough to hear your neighbor's political views.

Expected wait: Reservations are available, but strangely not necessary.

Who you'll eat with: Double dates, handsome couples getting better with age, possibly one man from Seattle with strong views on the dishonesty

of the media.

Year opened: 2004

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