I recently made a visit down to New Orleans for a weekend trip. I’ve never been to the American South not to mention The Big Easy, and was definitely excited to broaden my culinary perspective exploring what the Southern cuisine really has to offer. My first stop was the distinguished Commander’s Palace, which has been around since 1890 at the Garden District churning out the Cajun and Creole classics and winning accolades here and there, with the kitchen helmed by chef Tory McPhail. I was really looking forward to the traditional Southern experience (with a somewhat strict dress code and a very classy vibe). At the end of the day, I felt that the food was somewhat uneven, but did like some of the dishes that I had tried.
The restaurant has a three course classic Creole lunch at relatively affordable $35 per person. I was a fan of all three dishes. Creole gumbo that came with Louisiana hot sauce and Creole seasonings was spot on, with very hearty feel to the dish that was soothing yet rich at the same time. Chicory coffee lacquered quail was another success, with very tender quail alongside fire roasted chili and cochon de lait boudin over smoky bacon wilted greens. The combination of this dish with Tabasco pepper jelly and espresso pecan crust created a very unique flavor on the sweeter side, something I really hadn’t experienced before. The famous Creole bread pudding soufflé was just pure decadence. On my first couple of scoops, I was blown away with the richness of this dish, but the excitement somewhat calmed as the flavor quickly overwhelmed by palate.
In addition to the three course meal, I got to taste a little bit of everything that my dining companions ordered and it was here that the experience was distinctly more mixed. The famous turtle soup with aged sherry tasted a bit like chicken soup and didn’t quite have the wow factor I was hoping for. I thought garlic and chili grilled chicken and Creole cochon de lait Cuban sandwich were serviceable (although not particularly memorable), and wondered why tournedos of black angus beef that came with Whiskey smoked onions, roasted mushrooms and Creole smashed new potatoes had to come in so salty even though the beef was more or less cooked pretty well. If the bread pudding soufflé is not really your thing because of its sweetness level, blueberry gallette with lemon curd may be a better option for you, with more modest yet elegant flavor.
The restaurant really has that classy vibe on a lunchtime, with lots of well-dressed men and women enjoying a beautiful Friday afternoon. The restaurant has a full bar with some classic New Orleans cocktails and (gasp!) 25 cents per person martini offerings. There is a dress code so jackets for men are preferred and T-shirts and shorts are not permitted under any circumstances. I really wish I loved my experience at Commander’s Palace more. Perhaps I needed some time to get used to the flavor of the South? The three course Creole lunch menu, though, was definitely a nice introduction to what the South has to offer. If not for the food, if you’re in New Orleans visiting for the first time, Commander’s Palace is still a worthy destination just for the experience of it.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130
Telephone: (504) 899-8221