New Orleans Dining: Commander’s Palace


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Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA
(504) 899-8221

Web Site: http://www.commanderspalace.com

New Orleans is a restaurant and tourism city that is by all accounts undergoing a slow and painful recovery since the tragic events of August and September 2005. Still, there have been some amazing examples of businesses on the rebound, culturally significant restaurants such as Willie Mae’s, Dooky Chase, Mandina’s, Angelo Brocato’s and Camelia Grill, that were damaged so severely from the levee flooding that many thought they would never return, but eventually did.

But perhaps the most significant of all has been the return of Commander’s Palace, the legendary flagship restaurant of the Brennan family, the most prominent restaurant family in the entire city. Commander’s is an extremely important institution in the restaurant culture of New Orleans, and has launched the careers of both Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, the two most visible practitioners of Cajun and Creole cuisine in the United States.

When Katrina hit, Commander’s was severely damaged by hurricane winds and flooding. After renovations taking over a year, the restaurant re-opened on October 1st, 2006.

Highlights from Commander’s Palace, as it appeared in our previous visit in November of 2003. It was and shall remain one of the most enjoyable dining experiences we have ever had in New Orleans.

Commander’s Palace as it appears today, post-renovation. The outside appears just as it was prior to Katrina, but the inside has undergone an incredible transformation.

Commander’s is still a favorite among the city’s elite and high society. This is a classic late 1970′s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow sedan belonging to a well-known Jazz trumpet player.

This rule is actually very strictly enforced. I had the misfortune of being dressed in long shorts when I walked in for our dinner reservation. I was told very nicely to go back to my hotel and put some pants on, which I did graciously.

The historical plaque next to the front door.

Commander’s Palace rises from the flood waters, and is even more grand and over-the-top than ever before. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

The reception area. Hey, I think this guy in scrubs is violating dress code.

The doors leading into and out of the kitchen. As you can see, it is prominently marked where the entrance and exit is, so that there will be no confusion.

The renovation has included new chandeliers which are even more regal than the previous ones. As a whole, the new Commander’s is much more over the top New Orleans than its older incarnation, which can be credited to personal touches made by Ella Brennan, the ever present matriarch of the Brennan Family.

One of Commander’s 25 cent martini cocktails. Essentially they are sugar candy in a glass.

The new menu, designed by Chef De Cuisine Tory McPhail is more updated than previous Commander’s menus, and is now producing modern Louisiana cuisine that draws upon the different ethnic groups in the New Orleans area, including Italian, Caribbean and Asian influences.

Chef De Cuisine Tory McPhail

Birds and wildlife are heavily featured in the restaurant’s new decor, which some have criticized as being over the top gawdy. Still, at the end of the day, this is Commander’s we’re talking about, which is about as definitive a New Orleans you can get, aside from Galatoire’s.

No, you’re not imagining things, those are actual faux birds perched on dowels mounted in the wallpaper — a personal touch by Ella Brennan.

Whatever you might think about the decor, the service at Commander’s is unmatched by any restaurant in New Orleans.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Shrimp Henican, with Tasso Ham, Crystal Hot Sauce Beurre Blanc, Pepper Jelly and Pickled Okra. One of Commander’s signature dishes. I loved this one.

The 1-1-1 Gumbo Cookoff. Three different gumbos, including Commander’s own pitted against two other classic recipes.

The Big Easy, Commander’s version of a Pimm’s Cup. A very food friendly cocktail. I suggest you skip the 25 cent martinis and go right to one of these, or a Bloody Bull, which is a Bloody Mary with beef bouillon added.

This was the Chili Shrimp dish over pasta which I ordered, which had a distinctly Southeast Asian flavor profile and clearly shows Chef Tory’s influence on the classic Commander’s menu. I really liked it.

Rachel’s fish dish.

We agonized over what desserts to order. Be it as it may, we were “made” as VIP’s and ended up being sent most of the pastry menu.

Chickory Iced Coffee. Commander’s uses French Market brand.

Creme Brulee, a perfect execution of the classic French dessert with a pretty Fleur de Lys on top made with confectioner’s sugar.

Jack Daniel’s Chocolate Torte

The Classic Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding Souffle with Whiskey Sauce. By far the best bread pudding preparation in the entire city.

Bread Pudding closeup

The Creole Cream Cheesecake. Dense and decadent.

We were less impressed with the Pecan Pie which had a much higher glop to pecan ratio than we normally like.

The “swan” take-home wrapping. Very classy.

The upstairs dining area, which still has furnishings from the orginal 19th century bordello that used to inhabit the second floor.

A view of Ella Brennan’s house from the upstairs dining room.

One of the private dining rooms.

The famous Garden Room.

A view of the patio area from the Garden Room.

Entering the kitchen, which is by far one of the largest restaurant kitchens in the city.

Commander’s famous garlic bread.

French loaves rolling out of the toaster.

The gumbo station.

Many blue crabs awaiting their fate.

A view of the patio area adjoining the kitchen entrance.

The pastry chef putting the finishing touches on a Creme Brulee.

The wrought iron gate leading into the patio dining area.

The dining room across from the patio.

An Indian mosaic in the patio dining room.

Commander’s new wine cellar. Over 18,000 bottles of the restaurant’s wine (which included a 1928 bottle of Chateau Cos d’Estournel worth $4,000) were destroyed in the summer heat when the electricity and air conditioning went out and the entire cellar was submerged in water when the levees flooded.

10 Responses to New Orleans Dining: Commander’s Palace

  1. rslux says:

    nice to see it coming back!

  2. I have often wondered what the restaurants of the famous New Orleans look like and especially after the hurricane (god bless). Thank you for showing us and come by my blog some time at http://www.thepowerofpassion.wordpress.com I know that we share the same love!

  3. Melissa says:

    You have captured the very essence of Commander’s Palace with this presentation! It brought back fond memories of a brunch that we had there after my daughter’s Tulane graduation … your photography is perfect here and I envy your ability to incorporate the essence of this place into a lovingly written piece …

    Laissez les bontemps roulez indeed!

  4. MJP says:

    Commander’s was on our hit list for sure for our New Orleans vaycay coming up in January, but seeing this has made it doubly so. Since there’s barely any real gumbo in Jersey, I look forward to the cook-off they have. XD

    Is it jacket and tie for the men, or can I get away with dressy casual?

  5. Brooks says:

    It’s funny about the dress code thing. If you don’t want to look like a tourist, you might want to go the tie and dress route. It really adds to the experience, IMO, but of course, I was trained early and often by the parents on this kind of thing. I don’t like to aggravate them, even forty years later. If I see one of their friends, and they report that I was looking kind of haggard, I’m in big trouble.

    But you do, no matter what, have to have a jacket. Trust me, you don’t want one of theirs. THey purposely have the tackiest ones imaginable. It’s a joke, but you don’t want them to play it on you.

  6. Kim WB says:

    Hi Jason and Rachel,

    I was in NOLA in May, but unfortuanately felt Commnaders had plummeted from my previous 8 visits. I spoke with a Brennans employee about it, and he agreed that so many cooks were lost. the food was more fusion than I remembered. More fussy. But most startingly, we were served by an unenthused, somewhat surly Tulane Student, who had been working there for two weeks…oh, I missed the special feeling of being celebrated as a guest. I would not say the food is BAD..only that th eexpereince is different. Brennans was able to hold on to their “feel” more successfully..it seemed as timeless as ever.

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  8. The CFT says:

    You make me want to go back. My short trip, summed up here http://thecagefreetomato.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-orleans.html, missed the Brennan establishments. We’ll get them next time. Glad to see I haven’t missed a chance to check the place out.

  9. lydia hamre says:

    Looks like a lot of great food and fun!

  10. Tracy says:

    I will be in New Orleans (with my Dad and two sisters) in April and I am looking forward to trying this place out. The 25 cent martini’s are what caught my eye but finding out it is a part of the Brennan Family really got my attention. We love Brennan’s and I’m sure we will love Commander’s too.

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