Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Lites Up Disneyland Downtown

1590 South Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, California 92802

Brennan's New Orleans Courtyard Two years on and Brennan's Jazz Cafe is wowing the punters at Disneyland Downtown theme park with high quality authentic Creole food. Mind you, it required a massive $8 million investment that will take ten years to repay to bring the restaurant to Anaheim, and the locals are the beneficiaries. Although they obviously have captive audiences who come to Disneyland, this is far from being a tourist trap, and well worth the visit to just eat there.

Ralph Brennan and his family have owned and operated restaurants in New Orleans for 55 years, starting out with the purchase of the Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Holdings now include the Italian restaurant BACCO, the Red Fish Grill and Mr B's, all in the French Quarter. Ralph's own credentials include serving as Chairman of the National Restaurant Association in 1995-6 as well as being past President of the New Orleans and Louisiana Restaurant Associations. In short, the family knows how to run a business, and a 450-seater restaurant in such a high profile environment takes all their skills. Ralph flies in to town every three weeks to oversee things with manager Mason Jambon and executive chef Christopher Phipps, both from New Orleans.

Brennan's Creole Cafe Phipps is a chef who is keen to go places, and comes to Anaheim by way of a stint as sous chef at world-renowned Galatoire's in the French Quarter. His first job was in 1993 at BACCO as a line cook where he stayed for five years before leaving the organization to work as chief bread baker at the acclaimed Susan Spicer's Spice Inc. Two years later, he accepted the offer to move to Anaheim starting out as Purchasing Manager and then Food & Beverage Manager. He has now been chef for six months, and is so happy to be at the front line again in the kitchens, that it really shows in the passion he displays in the cooking of the food. He admits that he has had to compromise slightly in toning down the spices for the Southern California palate, but not that much.

All this is great you may say, but how is the food? It is Creole and very authentic with several highlights on the menu that you have to try starting with the crab cakes. The crab is flown in three times a week from New Orleans, making the cakes extremely light and tender where you can taste the spices. Also outstanding were the three soups, especially the Butternut Squash, very sweet and a lovely change of pace for any soup lover. There are also two types of gumbo, Seafood file with shrimp, blue crabmeat, and oysters with okra in a rich shrimp broth over rice, and the Gumbo Ya-Ya that has Chicken and andouille sausage, covered in dark roux and creole seasonings and also served over rice. Both versions were delicious and perfectly seasoned. The coconut beer battered shrimp with Tabasco pepper jelly were irresistible, as were the Pacific Bay oysters ($8.75), flash fried and served with a Louisiana Crystal Barbecue sauce and a blue cheese dressing.

Brennan Brings New Orleans to Disneyland Two of the most popular main courses are the Catfish Pecan (17.75); served on a bed of popcorn rice and a three-bean salad, and the Pasta Jambalaya w/spinach fettuccini (19.50), an unusual combination that is also a signature dish of the chef. The catfish was simply the best I have ever had, and the popcorn rice was a revelation, extremely light and tender. The pecan crust on the catfish, which arrived pan sauteed and topped with a creole browned butter, complemented the fish perfectly.

Desserts are also a work of art here, especially the Flambeau banana on ice cream that is prepared at the table to the envy of the other dining guests. A comprehensive wine list mainly features Californian vintages with a wide price range depending on the budget, or you can select by the glass at around $6 a pop.

A lively bar scene is augmented by the live jazz/blues/rock music from an authentic New Orleans band Friday-Sunday, and a solo performer aptly named Ray Charles on other nights.

Tel: 714.776.5200
Fax: 714 776-5300
Parking: Self park or valet. First 3 hours free
Corkage fee: $10 per table

Live Solo Jazz Pianist: Sun-Wed, 18:00-22:00
Flambeaux's Live Jazz Music: Thu-Sat, 19:00-23:00
Flambeaux's Jazz Trio: Sunday Brunch, 11:00-15:00

Brennan's Jazz Kitchen online

Mike Hepworth, December 2002

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