Louis’s Fish Camp

I’m not sure I could say it any better than Louis’s Fish Camp proclaims it itself, so I’ll just quote from the restaurant’s menu:

“The South has risen again. And this time, we brought snacks.”

Such a lighthearted spirit envelops this casual sister of Louis’s Las Vegas, but South Carolina-based chef Louis Osteen and his Las Vegas chef Carlos Guia, late of Commander’s Palace Las Vegas, are nothing but serious when it comes to the food. Osteen is renowned for his Lowcountry cuisine, Guia known for his Creole and Cajun, and so both culinary traditions — and a lot of melding of the two — color the menu at Louis’s Fish Camp.

As in a New Orleans oyster Po’Boy, ($16.50), also available with shrimp, a just-crusty-enough length of bread topped with tomatoes and pickles and — the piece de resistance — cornmeal-crusted oysters, slightly crunchy on the outside, so that when you bite through to the soft interior, the essence of the sea floods the mouth.

As in The Lowcountry’s Finest ($24.50), lightly sauteed shrimp on a big ol’ pile of stone-ground grits, with a creamy, lightly herbed sauce that didn’t overwhelm the sweet (yes, sweet when it’s fresh, and this was) flavor of the just-cooked-enough shrimp, and so perfectly amalgamated with the grits that I found myself shoveling and shoveling and wishin’ I was in the land of cotton, where old times and good grits are not forgotten.

And I shoveled, as well, the She Crab Soup ($8), another Lowcountry delight that’s made with, yes, female crabs, because the roe is incorporated into the soup. If you’ve ever scoffed at Southern food, ever viewed it as somewhat less sophisticated than the more contemporary fusion confusion, you should try this soup, which in its complexity and depth of flavor is equal to the most lavishly prepared lobster bisque.

We arrived at the tail end of happy hour, which enabled us to order the happy-hour special fried green tomatoes ($3), which weren’t on the regular menu. Again, cornmeal-crusted, firm, tart and lovely.

Dessert was a bit of a border-bender, a panna cotta ($7) prepared with buttermilk, which lent its very clear tang to what tends to be a rather neutral dessert. The raspberry and apricot coulis that streaked the plate were just icing on the proverbial cake.

Service throughout was excellent, our waitress hastening to tell us when we arrived that it was nearing the end of happy hour and if we wanted to take advantage of any drink specials, we needed to do it soon. What we really wanted to take advantage of was a Mint Julep ($8.50), prepared by a bartender who started out by muddling fresh mint, and who did honor to a fine tradition (not to mention to the restaurant’s bourbon bar).

We sipped and ate in an atmosphere that seemed part sports bar, part blues club, maybe not as extensively decorated as we expected, but comfortable nonetheless. Sitting at a tablecloth covered in faux plastic lace (so I guess that’s faux faux, but whatever), we were charmed.

But those grits, and that She Crab Soup — not to mention the Po’Boy? Those are what will keep us coming back.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.

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