Commander’s Palace: An Experience

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After Rob’s excellent job picking out a few restaurants on our trip to Australia, I was thrilled when he said he’d do the planning of this portion of our New Orleans trip. This was also important because he is allergic to seafood {and some landfood, too}, which is often a staple in NOLA. It’s important when choosing a restaurant for him to find something on the menu that he will enjoy!

And for some reason, he remembered Commander’s Palace from the New Orleans season of Top Chef“We have to go there!” he exclaimed.

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Then I remembered this post by Megan from I Run for Wine. I suggested to Rob that we do a weekday lunch so that he would not have to bring nor wear a dinner jacket {their is still a dress code at lunch, but it’s a little more lax than dinner} and to keep our expenses a bit lower. I made the reservation for a Friday at noon.

That morning, we had our beignets at Café du Monde followed by more coffee at Spitfire. We hopped on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar and did our own little tour of the Garden District. {That’s for another post!}

We still happened to have a bit of extra time so we stopped at a neighborhood bar called Tracey’s for a bevvy.

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I find it so strange that smoking is still allowed in bars in New Orleans. It feels so… 1980s. I know that Minnesota didn’t ban smoking in bars and restaurants until 2007 and Wisconsin didn’t follow suit until 2010. But the 80s reminds me of when I was most surrounded by smoke.

But all that will change in New Orleans when smoking is banned in bars next month. Yet, the impact is being discussed at length.

~

Commander’s Palace felt a bit like the 1980s, too, but in a completely different way. 

We arrived about ten minutes early; yet it felt like there were 150 people waiting to greet us. I had subtly requested the Garden Room on my online reservation, as it had been highly recommended.

What came next was a whirlwind…

As one of the hostesses led us to our table in the Garden Room, she chatted politely and then stated matter-of-factly, “Now we will be going through the kitchen.”

She pushed the swinging door marked “YES” and magically, we were introduced to the show! it was like we got to take a peak inside the clock to watch how all of the pieces intricately worked together. Truly, Commander’s Palace is a well-oiled machine. Every person moved fluidly across the floor, with a sense of urgency and purpose.

I wanted to look around, but did so cautiously in fear that I would run into someone or get in the way. I was imagining all sorts of dishes and food flying in the air before crashing on the ground. I did see some freshly baked bread that looked oh-so-good!

After passing through the kitchen, we walked through the outdoor courtyard before heading into the Garden Room. It was a little chilly that day to be sitting in the courtyard; so no one was seated out there. But by the time we left, there were a couple of tables of people enjoying a few drinks.

As we were seated, napkins were removed from the table and put in our laps, a black one substituted for me because I was wearing black pants. The well-oiled machine did not stop moving. It felt like 100 people were serving us. They gracefully dodged each other and guests as they glided across the room, between tables.

Although I was intrigued by their French house wines for only $5.99 a glass, the 25-cent martini deal was just too good to be true not to start with one.

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We both ordered dirty gin martinis, straight up. I stole Rob’s olives. 

{He made sure he ordered his subsequent martinis with a twist.}

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There were several tables with ocean-blue colored drinks, which we later learned was the Commander’s Signature Martini made with blue curacao. No, thank you!

One of the many staff members was walking around asking if we’d like to try some garlic bread. Yes, please! After we each took a bite and mmm….’d, he put a plate of a few more pieces on our table. No complaints!

IMG_1712I was really hoping Rob would order the French Black Truffle and Autumn Mushroom Risotto. I have never had shaved black truffles before.

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Because I already knew that I was going to order Chef Tory’s Classic Creole Luncheon! The Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé was highly recommended. Since it takes about 30 minutes to prepare, it makes sense to order the three-course selection all at once so that the soufflé will be ready by the end of the meal. I bet the EAT FIT NOLA menu would be fantastic, too. I was trying to go more classic New Orleans because I didn’t know what the rest of the trip would bring.

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After ordering, we received… more bread. This time, it was a freshly baked loaf like I saw in the kitchen.

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I made sure to eat a good share of that yummy bread because if I decided to indulge in my 3-martini limit, I needed to get some food other than beignets and coffee in my tummy. Besides, most of my lunch would be seafood, which wouldn’t be very substantial either.

In no time, the Garden Room filled up!

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 Then my gumbo arrived. It was brought out in a silver cup and poured into the bowl at my table.

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Creole Seafood Gumbo

This seafood gumbo was very “muddy” and not at all what I’d been expecting. It’s been a while since I’ve had gumbo, so maybe what I’ve had in the past hasn’t been authentic. I thought gumbo was generally served over or with a bit of rice.  That was not the case here. The description made it sound spicy, too; but it was not. The flavors of this version weren’t my favorite, so I didn’t finish it.

My next course was the fish. It was an absolutely gorgeous plate of food!

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Griddle Seared Fish

The fish of the day was black drum, one that that was unfamiliar to me; but it seemed to be pretty common during the time we were down there. I found it to be a little tough in terms of texture. The dish was good enough to finish, but not something I would order again. My favorite part of the dish was whatever that green sauce was drizzled all over the plate! I wished there was more of it.

Rob did not order the risotto that I had hoped. 😦 I don’t know why he thinks he gets to choose his own dish? 🙂 He ordered the steak which he absolutely loved. It was perfectly cooked and well seasoned. It was a generous portion, too!

Black Angus Sirloin Chargrilled New York strip with Lyonnaise potatoes, smoked onion, mushrooms, tasso marchands de vin & Piri Piri maître d’ butter 29.00

Black Angus Sirloin
Chargrilled New York strip with Lyonnaise potatoes, smoked onion,
mushrooms, tasso marchands de vin & Piri Piri maître d’ butter

And for the record, when the drink server {yes, there is one of those, too!}, asked us if we wanted our 3rd martinis I said, “Yeah, why not!” Chances are that I’ll never participate in a 3-martini lunch again.

I was, however, sure to order a cup of coffee to sober up go with my souffle! “We serve ours with chicory here? Is that okay?” our server asked. I guess I just expected that because we were, well, in New Orleans. That’s what coffee is here. They must have had some complaints. It’s all part of that well-oiled machine, I guess.

But then, dessert arrived…

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Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Cream Sauce

 

I was in the restroom {all those martinis!} when the soufflé arrived, so Rob said I missed the presentation of the whole thing. That would have been nice. But honestly, it didn’t matter. This was the star of the show! I don’t think I’ve had a soufflé before; but this one I’d highly recommend. Rob and I licked up every morsel.

While this may seem a hefty bill for lunch, we think we did pretty good for having six drinks – martinis at that!

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Commander’s Palace did serve very good food, generally speaking, but other than dessert, it didn’t really blow me away. Still, it is a classic New Orleans restaurant. One that I’m not sure has changed for many, many years. I felt a bit like I was in the 80s again. I don’t know how to explain that because I was a child in the 80s, had never been in a fancy restaurant at that time, nor had a martini.

In any case, Commander’s Palace is an experience – and one that I think was worth every cent. If you do go, go for this reason. The food will be still be very good. If you are only going for the weekday lunch 25-cent martinis please note that all of the Brennan family restaurants offer that special during Monday through Friday lunch with the purchase of an entree: Café Adelaide and SoBou. Rumor has it that the classic restaurant Antoine’s offers the same.

Next time we are in New Orleans, we want to check out the Friday lunch at Galatoire’s. That is supposed to be just as, if not, even more entertaining!

We took the packed streetcar back and a chatty woman of a certain age gave us the run-down on her beloved city. She was so proud! We eagerly engaged ourselves in the conversation, probably more so than we would have without those martinis.

Then we promptly returned to our hotel room for a much needed nap. 🙂

Have you ever had a 3-martini lunch?!

New Orleans 2015 Trip Posts:

Cheers~
Carrie

 

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