1403 Washington Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130
Dining date: 6/11/15
Commander’s Palace might be the most famous restaurant in New Orleans. It’s been a fine dining staple in the the city’s Garden District since the late 1800’s. It’s helped launch the careers of some of the city’s most notable chefs including Paul Prudhomme (executive chef from 1975-82) and Emeril Lagasse (executive chef 1983-1990). It’s still very much current with chef Tory McPhail at the helm, who has continued to garner accolades including being awarded the James Beard Best Chef South in 2013.
While navigating a crowded dining itinerary, we chose Commander’s Palace for lunch. The restaurant offers some very approachable ways to lunch here including prix fixe menus of two-courses (up to $24) and three-courses (up to $35). A la carte is also available with main courses in the low-$20s. We ordered 1 three-course menu and 1 two-course.
Slices of buttery garlic toast were the first things to come out of the kitchen.
Commander’s Palace offers a full bar including special pricing on martinis for lunch – 25 cents each. Since I was on vacation, I indulged.
A second “bread course” came next; this was some of the best bread service in memory. I’m pretty convinced this was baked fresh (not just reheated), having an addicting crackling exterior and a hot airy interior. So good.
Creole Gumbo a rich gumbo spiked with Louisiana hot sauce and Creole seasonings
Of course gumbo was in order; Commander’s Palace’s chicken and andouille gumbo was the only variation I had that didn’t come with rice. The bread was a perfect substitute to soak up the earthy, deep savory flavor of the gumbo.
Commander’s Turtle Soup finished tableside with aged sherry
Turtle soup is a specialty of the house so we got a bowl. The turtle flavor itself was fairly subtle in a tomato-based soup. True to the area, there was plenty of spice making for some bold flavors, though it wasn’t too spicy.
Louisiana Shrimp & Grits gulf shrimp crusted with black pepper, garlic and lemon zest over gruyère smoke roasted grits with grilled asparagus & yellow tomato courtbouillon
Plump jumbo shrimp sat atop buttery grits in this variation of the southern classic. A rich sauce added plenty more flavor; I appreciated the addition of tomatoes and asparagus to add some brightness and freshness to the otherwise rich dish.
Chicory Coffee Lacquered Quail fire roasted chili and cochon de lait boudin over smoky bacon wilted greens with tabasco pepper jelly and espresso pecan crust
This quail was excellent. It was deboned (save for the drumstick), stuffed with boudin sausage, then roasted with this coffee lacquer. The quail was cooked beautifully, moist with plenty of flavor. The stuffing packed a punch too, adding plenty more flavor and meatiness. Smoky bacon with bitter wilted greens provided a nice counterbalance to the rich meat.
Ray’s Melon Martini
Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé all the richness of Creole bread pudding whipped up into a light soufflé finished tableside with whiskey cream sauce
The soufflé was the dessert that came with the three-courser, big enough to share. Served piping hot, it was pretty delicious and comforting with plenty of cinnamon and spice notes. A whiskey cream sauce added some depth of flavor and some additional sweetness.
We really enjoyed lunch at Commander’s Palace. The food was delicious, a nice upscale take on some southern favorites. Service was notably excellent and very attentive, even replacing water glasses between courses. The price was very reasonable for this type of meal too. I just wish I didn’t have three martinis; it seriously put me out for the rest of the afternoon.