Review: Hot Suppa

Hot Suppa’s new dinner service builds on longstanding strengths
By BRIAN DUFF  |  February 16, 2011

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AN IMPRESSIVE JAMBALAYA Hot Suppa’s Southern creds extend to dinner.
When you sit down in one of the comfortable booths for the new dinner service at Hot Suppa, it is hard to remember the many years when Hot Suppa was closed in the evenings. This quiet winter launch of the dinner service feels like a completely natural extension. The room, with its painted inlaid ceilings, brick walls, and wood booths was always on the elegant side for a breakfast and lunch place. And now they keep the lights pretty bright and the prices pretty lunchy in the evenings — so the transition to dinner does not feel jarring.

The menu also builds on existing strengths. But while the lunch at Hot Suppa has long had a slight Southern lilt, the dinner menu speaks with a deeper drawl. It seems like the right move for dinner. Eclecticism is welcome at lunch, but an evening meal calls for a narrower culinary coherence. And Southern cuisine offers some great notes to cohere around during a particularly cold and snowy winter: warm spices, creamy textures, and rich flavors.

Several of these notes worked together in an appetizer of boudin balls, made with pork sausage. Beneath the crispy exterior the sausage had been whipped up with rice to create a juicy and light texture. Each bite was so infused with a terrific warm Cajun spice that the big dollop of mustard seemed superfluous. They were served with some cool-sour pickled okra — a nice idea that offered a bit of crunch, rather than the typical okra-mush.

While the boudin sausage came in the shape of three perfect snowballs, our other appetizer of fried green tomatoes came as three golden pucks. The slight sourness of the al-dente tomatoes worked well with the light crispy breading. Again, the flavors were pleasant enough that we barely took advantage of the mild remoulade that came alongside. The real star of this appetizer, however, was the pile of cool little bay scallops. The deep smoky flavor worked well with the squishy scallops' natural sweetness.

Jambalaya is a dish that can go wrong very fast, so it is impressive that Hot Suppa serves a good one. The rice finds that right spot where it is neither dry nor mushy, but both toothsome and soft — and a great conveyance for the dish's mild heat. It is speckled with green onion, and spotted with plenty of tender chicken and a drier smoked sausage.

There is nothing dry in an entrée of shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits appear all over the Hot Suppa menu (as an appetizer, a side to the catfish, and a main dish) and they are indeed something to be proud of. The entrée version features grits that are creamy, runny, and resonant of the sweetness of the corn. A ring of the lovely white of the grits frames a pile of big shrimp soaking in shallow little pools of spicy red oil and butter. The shrimp is tender but not overcooked, and the Cajun spices just assertive enough to complement without overwhelming the sweet corn and the overall buttery richness of the dish.

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