Back in April, some friends and I were discussing what I should do for my milestone birthday. The decision was to take a trip away and I picked New Orleans as our destination. After months of planning, six of my friends and I (and another joined later) flew out for a four-day adventure filled with fun, laughter, great company and of course, food!
I decided to play most of the weekend by ear, although one thing was for sure. I wanted to spend my birthday at Commander’s Palace and secured reservations early for their famed Sunday Jazz Brunch.
We arrive for our 10.30am reservation with a host of staff waiting to lead us to our table. Up the stairs and into the Garden Room we go. A window table allows us a full view of the downstairs garden patio. I was here last year for an event, but none of my friends have experienced Commander’s Palace — and everyone should at least once in their lifetime.
Sunday Brunch is a decadent three-course affair. Pricing is based off your entrée, with a starter and dessert thrown in. Of course, some of the restaurant’s specials can be ordered for an additional fee, and I highly recommend you do so, especially if you’re not sure when you’ll be returning again.
An amuse bouche of shrimp remoulade hits the table and it is a solid introduction to what lies ahead.
I already knew what I wanted to start with. For those of you who can’t make up your mind between the famed Turtle Soup or the Commander’s Creole Gumbo, ask for 1-1-1 (not listed on the menu) to start. This presentation offers up a cup of the rich veal fond-based Turtle Soup. It is finished tableside with a splash of aged sherry. In addition, there is a cup of the scrumptious slow cooked gumbo with regional ingredients spiked with roasted garlic and Creole seasonings. Soup du Jour is the third cup, and on this day, it is a luscious, creamy shrimp fennel concoction which I wanted more of.
Or, just opt for an entire bowl of your favorite soup, which is what one of my friends decided on.
If you’re looking for delicious salads, this is the place for them. Last year, we enjoyed The Commander’s Salad a seriously tasty offering packed with hearts of romaine, Parmesan, pressed egg, house-made bacon, French bread croutons, grated Gruyere and a to-die-for creamy black pepper dressing.
Autumn Orchard Salad is a vibrant plate of red and green leaf lettuces tossed with candied pecans, slow barbecued red onions, blue cheese and a cinnamon and Tabasco vinaigrette.
As you can see, I’ve only listed three starters, that’s because almost every person at the table opted for the soups in one form or another – it’s THAT good!
There are seven entrées selections, and there is something for everyone. We order five of the seven options. Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish ($45) sits in a bath of crushed corn velouté, sprinkled with spiced New Roads pecans, petite herbs and topped with Prosecco poached Louisiana blue crab. The fish is tender and marries well with the sweetness of the corn and crab.
Bayou Brunch ($37) is the perfect rendition of New Orleans cuisine on a plate. Crispy Des Allemands catfish fillets (named after Des Allemands the “catfish capital of the world”) are perfectly fried, over Cajun jambalaya grits, a poached egg, ghost chile caviar Hollandaise and a piquant smoked tomato sauce. This is one of my favorite dishes of the meal.
Although I’m not a huge fan of beef, Tournedos of Black Angus Beef ($40) is well-executed, arriving at an ideal medium rare temperature. The chargrilled petite filets are tender and served with horseradish smashed red potatoes, and garlic roasted chanterelle mushrooms. There’s also a soft poached egg with Bearnaise and sauce Tchopitoulas, to kick it up a notch.
I’m ordinarily a huge eggs Benedict fan, but on this day, I did not choose this offering. Cochon De Lait Eggs Benedict ($36) is a hearty dish using buttermilk biscuits as its base, and topped with 12-hour barbecue shoulder of pork and poached eggs. Sauce forestiere and house-made tasso Hollandaise is smothered over the dish creating a coma-inducing entrée of absolute debauchery.
On my last trip to NOLA, I remember being enamored by the redfish, so naturally, my pick is Chargrilled Gulf Redfish ($41) a intricately layered plate including Louisiana crab boiled peanuts pureed with brown butter, roasted fairytale eggplant, farro, grilled kale, slow-roasted Roma tomatoes and a charred shishito-fish-bone beurre blanc.
I’m already full before desserts arrive, but I am anticipating the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle ($3 supplement) I devoured last year, all on my own. “The Queen of Creole Desserts” is a light-as-air bread pudding topped with warm whiskey sauce added tableside. I only manage to eat three quarters of this incredible dessert. It is on my top ten list of desserts I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.
Pecan Pie a la Mode is a Southern style pecan pie and vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with melted chocolate, and Fleur de Sel caramel, then sprinkled with candied pecans.
Lally’s Praline Parfait is a tall glass layered with handcrafted ice cream, a honey tuille, candied pecans, Chantilly cream and sticky praline syrup. It is Lally Brennan’s favorite dessert – Lally Brennan stopped by the table to wish me a happy birthday! What a treat that was!
Although Bananas Foster ($16) is not on the brunch menu, I highly suggest you order this. Yes, Brennan’s might be the originator of this dessert, but I love the one at Commander’s Palace just a tad more than the one at Brennan’s. I wish I had more room for another bite.
At the end of the meal, make sure you take a quick peek through the kitchen, then, grab a map of the Garden District walking tour and stroll through the neighborhood to walk off the meal. My friends wanted to see the “Benjamin Button House” which is #2 on the map.
Old school charm, impeccable service, great food and awesome music make Commander’s Palace a must-visit for anyone and everyone who comes to New Orleans. Just make sure you have a reservation secured before you arrive, or you’ll be sorely disappointed.
1403 Washington Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130