To the Moon 

Good news and bad news at Cayenne Moon.

One of the newest additions to the downtown dining scene, Cayenne Moon sets the mood with its red walls, black wrought-iron balconies, and dim lighting courtesy of one monster of a chandelier. Definitely a scene straight out of King Creole.

To kick things off, we sampled the New Orleans lump crabcakes and the Cayenne shrimp with cool salsa. The crabcakes came packed with large pieces of white crabmeat, white onion, and a side of rémoulade sauce. The onion should have been more finely chopped, plus the crabcakes had been left in the skillet too long and were burned on the bottom. In contrast, the shrimp were blackened to perfection. The peppery seasoning of the large shrimp went well with the sweetness of the mango salsa. Our only regret was that we only had one order.

There are 26 entrées on Cayenne Moon's menu, and if this isn't enough, there are also nightly specials. Although we were all tempted by the charbroiled bologna steak, we chose instead the seafood étouffée, shrimp scampi, Caribbean jerk salmon, and, a special of the evening, sea scallops. First up was the scampi, introduced by the aroma of lemon and butter. This dish, with its plump pink shrimp bathed in a garlic-butter sauce tossed over angel-hair pasta, tasted as good as it smelled. Next came the seafood étouffée served over white rice. The étouffée had a light copper roux as a base, and crawfish and shrimp were its featured seafood. Unfortunately, the anticipated rich étouffée flavor didn't exist, and it needed a lot of hot sauce, salt, and pepper to give it a kick. The menu offered a choice of dinner rolls or cornbread, but on this night cornbread was not available. We got over this disappointment quickly, however, when a plate of warm yeast rolls appeared. Seconds, please.

The filet of salmon seasoned with Caribbean jerk ordered by one of my companions appeared on a bed of grilled pineapple rings and topped with a mango salsa. The allspice combination of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon with the pineapple enhanced the fish. The flavors mingled fabulously, though the salmon was overcooked. I selected the seafood special for the evening: four bacon-wrapped sea scallops dusted with Cajun seasoning and a baked potato for the side. I thought combining the scallops with a potato and not offering rice a bit strange. The scallops had been prepared at too high a temperature and were dry, overdone, and the bacon burned. The uneventful baked potato came with sour cream and butter. The best part of the meal was the salad. Most of the entrées come with a small dinner salad. Cayenne Moon's homemade house dressing is a very flavorful herb-packed basil vinaigrette.

We could not give up on Cayenne Moon quite yet, so we ordered hot tea and coffees and pondered the dessert selection. At this point a break was in order. And while the service at Cayenne Moon is very attentive and the atmosphere festive, the bathroom is scary. Truck-stop scary. If Cayenne Moon is going to make the type of investment they have in décor and food and demand the prices they do, then a simple, tasteful, and clean bathroom should not be out of reach.

Back to the desserts. The bread pudding was smothered in a delicious praline caramel sauce and crowned with vanilla ice cream. The dense praline cheesecake was drizzled with melt-in-your-mouth caramel. The beignets were topped with lots of powdered sugar and served with warm honey. The scalloped bananas were prepared a bit differently from the way the menu described. Instead of the bananas rolled in pecans, deep-fried, and served with warm chocolate sauce and ice cream, I got a banana cut into four pieces, rolled in chocolate, then rolled in pecans and served with vanilla ice cream. Don't get me wrong, I have no complaints. This dessert is pure ecstasy. In retrospect, I should have ordered it first. It is most definitely the crown jewel of the desserts and maybe the entire menu.

Cayenne Moon has some areas that need a little work, but it is definitely a positive addition to downtown. It is open Monday-Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and Tuesday-Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. for dinner. You can visit their Web site at CayenneMoon.com and take a look at their lunch and dinner menus. Appetizers range from $7.95 to $10.95, entrées from $14.95 to $39.95, and desserts from $3.95 to $7.95. Lunches range from $4.95 to $10.95.

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