Commander's Palace is quite the institution in New Orleans. I had been there once before for a jazz brunch when DH and I took one of our granddaughters on a special trip for her 13th birthday. They serve up a three-course brunch in high style, and there's a wandering jazz trio that moves from dining room to dining room, taking requests. It's great fun.
From the moment we arrived, it was a fabulous experience. Warm welcomes all around as soon as our feet crossed the threshold. We were lucky enough to get seated in the Garden Room, which is fun because you get to walk through the kitchens to get there, because there's a live tree growing in the room up through the ceiling, and because it's glassed in and overlooking the courtyard, which was lovely that time of year.
It was very difficult deciding what to order (take a look at their sample online menu and see for yourself), but I ended up starting with the Oyster & Absinthe Dome, which is a creamy concoction with bacon, artichokes, and tarragon-infused cream, topped by a flaky pastry shell.
It is not, however, the most accommodating place to eat if you are vegetarian, as my friend AW is. They offered only one vegetarian option for the entree on the brunch menu: Red Velvet pancakes. But since those would also be followed by a dessert course, AW wasn't so interested in essentially eating dessert twice. The only minor mar in the whole process was when she asked our server if the crab & vegetable frittata could be made without the crab. Instead of saying "yes, of course we can do that," he said he had to phone the chef and ask permission. It surprised me quite a bit that a restaurant of that calibre and that kind of national standing would not empower its serving staff to make such accommodations. And frankly it surprised me that there wasn't a non-dessert-like vegetarian option for the entree on their menu. In a city that relies heavily on tourism and where the number of vegetarians is on the rise pretty much all over, it is almost inconceivable.
The kitchen finally responded with an All Clear to the veggie frittata request, so we recommenced with our enjoyment of the day. I cannot remember the name of what I ordered, but it was a Creole take on Eggs Benedict, with crayfish, "debris," and a spicy sauce. As I recall, and with the photographic evidence above, I think it was served on a bread that more closely resembled a biscuit than an English muffin. It was excellent, but I only managed to eat about half of it. And no, I did not bite the tail and suck the head. Thanks for asking.
In fact, by that time, were all questioning our collective delusion in thinking that a first breakfast was a good idea, but we had to power through the dessert course. Which, frankly, is worth waiting for, not to mention worth a little gastrointestinal distress. But dessert is my raison d'être, or at least one of them, and these were a couple of pieces des resistances.
It was strawberry season in Louisiana during our visit, and I had forgotten just how plump, sweet, and lush those berries are. Plus, we wanted to be mindful of our heavy meal, so we ordered two servings of strawberry shortcake for dessert to accompany the bread pudding soufflé. Honestly, have you ever heard a phrase more enticing than bread pudding soufflé?
When it's delivered to the table, the server breaks the top and pours into it many heaping spoonfuls of hard sauce. It was pretty divine, I have to say. The only thing that could possibly improve it would be the introduction of a second round of cocktails. AW and Carla ordered milk punches while I ordered a shot of rum: XO Ron Zacapa, neat, with a side of ice and some lime.
I'm not sure which surprised us more: the size of the bill or our difficulty standing up after the meal. We were, of course, expecting a large bill, but it was still sufficiently large to make us soberly consider the experience. Was it worth it? You bet your doubloons it was!
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