You can chalk it up to serendipity that, when the lease for the same Narberth address John Mims left in 2006 became available, the New Orleans native was good and ready to return to the community that helped build him. “It’s home to me,” he says—and, in fact, he and his wife, Kerri, live upstairs.
Most recently Aperto, Carmine’s Act Two is certainly modest, with its patches of exposed brick and cream-colored walls. The best four seats in the house are at the bar in front of the open kitchen.
Thanks to three previous installments, Main Liners should be accustomed to the Carmine’s Creole brand. Although its latest iteration is the most impressive to date, Mims’ signature staples remain: the breathtakingly rich she-crab bisque and the oh-so-generous bowls of rust-colored shrimp-and-crawfish étouffée delivered with spicy authenticity.
The BYOB’s renewed culinary gusto, however, comes by way of the contemporary, Louisiana-themed surprises. My slice of smoked-Gouda-and-crab cheesecake (with a punchy green onion aioli) had a decadent panache. Mims’ considerable finesse with seafood was embodied in a curry-buttered slab of Chilean sea bass, sided with crunchy coconut shrimp. And nightly specials go well beyond Bourbon Street typecasting. Think wild-boar meatballs with a red wine demi-glace.
Be it through his soulful recreations or spicy sleight of hand, Mims has a way of turning skeptical Main Line diners into true
bayou believers. Welcome back, big daddy. 232 Woodbine Ave., Narberth, (610) 660-0160, carminesacttwo.com.