Friday, September 18, 2015

Commander's Palace | New Orleans

Chef's Jazz Brunch Special
Steven and I didn't know much about the food scene of New Orleans until we started watching Top Chef Season 11. Never mind that Commander's Palace is probably the most revered restaurant in New Orleans, we knew we had to eat here as soon as we saw the cheftestants eating a gigantic bone-in veal chop the size of their face.

since 1880
getting here
We stayed in the French Quarter and it was very easy to get to the Garden District via the St. Charles Streetcar. Get off on Washington Street and walk two blocks southeast to Washington and Coliseum. You can't miss the bright aqua Victorian building. If you have time and weather permits, the Garden District is a wonderful neighborhood to walk around in. The streets are lined with beautiful Victorian mansions that are sure to give you house envy. If you're lucky, you might even see Sandra Bullock (she owns a home just a block away from the restaurant).

dress code
The restaurant has a dress code—unsurprising for an establishment of this caliber. Jackets are preferred and collared shirts and closed-toed shoes are required for gentlemen. No shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts, sweat shirts or sweat pants and jeans are discouraged. 

Weekend Jazz Brunch
We had a hard time deciding between the weekend jazz brunch and dinner. Since it was our first time in New Orleans, we would be remiss if we didn't experience a jazz brunch. Unfortunately the veal chop tchoupitoulas is only on the dinner menu. To ease the disappointment, the brunch menu has many of their classic dishes such as turtle soup, shrimp and tasso henican, and bread pudding souffle. Not only is there a live band on the weekends, there are balloons throughout the upstairs and downstairs dining rooms.

the food
Starting with the bun in the top left corner, this fig and foie gras sticky bun with candied pecans and sunny side up quail egg sounded amazing on paper but the other appetizers were better. The Louisiana Gulf shrimp stuffed with tasso, a spicy Cajun ham, with Crystal hot sauce buerre blanc and pickled okra and onions was our second favorite dish of the day. Everyone at the table wanted to try it. It was a challenge to split three shrimp four ways and a downright tragedy I only ended up with one shrimp. My favorite dish of this meal, and of our entire New Orleans trip, is the turtle soup, an iconic dish at Commander's Palace. If you go, you absolutely have to try it. The trio of soups features their turtle soup, gumbo, and soup du jour, a crab and corn chowder that day. After trying all three, I say skip the trio and just go for the big bowl of the turtle soup.

The brunch entrees were all good but I think the highlights of the meal are the appetizers and dessert. Their classic entrees, the veal chop and blackened gulf fish, are only offered at dinner. Going clockwise from the top left, we had shrimp and grits, lobster and brie frittata, chicory roasted quail, and duck and fig on griddle cakes. You can only order the quail if you do the brunch special pictured in the very beginning of this post: bloody mary, turtle soup, quail, and bread pudding souffle for $46. Steven and I both hate bloody marys but the quail was one of the better entrees. It appears again on the dinner menu, this time ala carte.

For dessert, our table got two bread puddings, one pecan pie, and sorbet. Steven's mom ordered the sorbet and it was so forgettable, we literally forgot to take a picture of it (I think she ended up eating most of his dad's bread pudding). The pecan pie is drizzled with chocolate and salted caramel sauce and served a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream. Pecan pie is a beloved Southern classic and the one here is excellent but the Creole bread pudding souffle served tableside with a warm whiskey cream sauce really steals the show. I normally pass on bread pudding because I find it too heavy and dense, but that is not the case here. The bread pudding custard is suspended in clouds of raisin-studded meringue so the dish has all the satisfying properties of a warm and gooey bread pudding while keeping the magical qualities of a light and fluffy souffle—it's one of the best desserts I have ever had.


Commander's Palace
1403 Washington Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
at the corner of Coliseum Street in the Garden District
Reservations: call or on their website (online reservations are limited)

Favorite Dishes: turtle soup, shrimp and tasso henican, bread pudding souffle

If you go for brunch, I highly recommend you request a table in the upstairs Garden Room when making your reservation. The floor to ceiling windows overlooking the courtyard and massive oak trees make it feel like you're dining in a treetop fairy castle.


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