Celtic Bayou Brewpub
7281 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy, Redmond, 425-869-5933
Sun-Mon 11:30 am-10 pm, Tues-Thurs 11:30 am- midnight, Fri-Sat 11:30 am- 1 am.

You don't have to go all the way to Redmond for crayfish--I'm told you can find them in Lake Washington. There's a lovely essay by food writer John Doerper about the happy discovery of some crayfish in a Northwest stream; he immediately built a fire from some exquisite wood and had himself a little riparian feast. (Doerper is the sort who carries a grill and an oyster shucker in his car for such occasions.)

Whether we're talking about crawfish or crayfish, I can't say. I dimly remember fuzzy old Emeril Lagasse insisting on one or the other, but then again my friend D. calls them crawdads. D. grew up on the Eastside, where Celtic Bayou is, so he may very well know. But D. also knows a French dialect word for the woman who sweeps the crayfish downriver into the nets.

So crayfish were the reason for the trip to Celtic Bayou, a strange hybrid of Irish pub and Cajun food. We got a steaming heap of them ($9.95)--bright red from their bath in a spicy broth and served with melted butter--and the rest of dinner just faded into the background. Crayfish meat is a lot like lobster but consistently sweeter, and more tender (if only because lobster is so frequently overcooked). There is also the fact that you twist off the tiny tail and leave pretty much all of the rest, which imparts a kingly feel of extravagance. It's polite to resist the temptation to turn the rest of the crayfish body into a little puppet.

There was also a shrimp étouffée (shrimp oversautéed to chewiness with celery and doused with a creamy sauce, $7.95) that was like Dickensian school food in texture but with a nice funky celery taste, and a chicken gumbo ($11.95) that would have been delicious but which seared the mouth too quickly (to my mind, spice should build, not shock). I did liked the pan-fried oysters ($12.95)--quite good, but also rather spicy, with spices threatening to crowd out the oyster flavor. (The best fried oysters I've ever, ever tasted are at the Pacific Inn on Stone Way.) Still, this is better pub food than most places offer (Celtic Bayou also, oddly, serves British food), and the crayfish are dreamy. Little dancing red crustaceans of my dreams.

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