Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace, New Orleans

by Chris on June 7, 2010

Commander’s Palace has still got it! A rundown of our Jazz Brunch at the venerable Garden District restaurant.

Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

Commander’s Palace, that venerable turquoise restaurant in New Orleans’ Garden District that’s been around since 1880, has always been one of my favorite “occasion” restaurants, in a city where people go out of their way to find reasons to celebrate, no matter what disasters are going on at the time.

Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch, Garden District

Back in 1999, I lived down the street from Commander’s, on the ground floor of a large home on Washington Avenue just off St. Charles. Although my apartment was small, I loved walking around the neighborhood, wondering who lived in the fabulous mansions behind wrought iron fences, and whiling away Sunday afternoons browsing for books at the Garden District Book Store. Commander’s, with its cheerful Victorian spires and banners, seemed the perfect architectural antidote to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, so gracefully morbid, across the street.

Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

I enjoyed many meals at Commander’s during my seven-year New Orleans stint. My parents loved the celebratory atmosphere, as well as the Creole food, and we would usually eat there at least once when they came to town. I spent several Easters and a Thanksgiving here, as well as a law school graduation and a rehearsal dinner. I always felt it was worth the price of admission.

Like many New Orleans restaurants, Commander’s suffered severe damage during Hurricane Katrina. It ended up closing for 13 months, as owners Ti Martin and Lally Brennan took the opportunity to update the kitchen and redo the decor. Now the walls of the upstairs rooms are lighter in color, although the elaborate Victorian details of the building are still there. The large downstairs room seems more open, less clubby. Or maybe that’s merely a perception of the more casual dress code; the restaurant relaxed its jacket requirement after Katrina (but don’t you dare show up in shorts).

Bloody Mary, Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

It ain’t a proper NOLA Sunday brunch without an eye-opener. My husband and I both started with standard-issue mimosas and coffee. But our friend Stephanie is a  Bloody Mary girl, and it arrived with a rim seasoned with Creole spices. A server finished the drink tableside, pouring out the vodka from a bottle encased in ice. Pickled okra through a sugarcane spear completed the drink.

Trio of soups, Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

Brunch at Commander’s is a three-course affair, where the entrees (priced from $28-$39) come with an appetizer and a dessert. My husband and I couldn’t decide between the soups; besides the usual Gumbo ya=ya and sherry-tinged turtle soup, the chef was serving up a softshell crab bisque as the soup of the day. Luckily, you can order all three as a demitasse trio – it’s not on the brunch menu, but ask your server about it. The bisque (which appears orange-yellow in the photo above) tasted silky and smooth; absolutely fabulous.

Shrimp remoulade, Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

The horrible British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf is foremost in every New Orleanian mind these days. “I’m ordering shrimp while I still can,” Stephanie said defiantly, a rallying call that I heard several times in restaurants over the weekend. Her shrimp remoulade tasted delicious; I fervently hope that Louisiana’s fishing and shellfish industry can recover (although at this point, it looks doubtful).

Eggs Acadian, Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

Fo rmy entree, I chose eggs Acadianan – two poached eggs atop red beans and what was supposed to be an andouille and pork “cake.” The dish was a little less structured than billed, and Steph and I both agreed that a firmer “cake” texture would have improved the dish. But there was no denying how tasty it was.

Veal and eggs, Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

My husband ordered the veal and eggs, which arrived in a gorgeous tower.

Bread pudding souffle, Commaner's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

Of course, I couldn’t pass up the bread pudding souffle. It’s a “production” dessert, and the servers make the most of the moment, breaking the foam with generous dollops of whiskey cream sauce.

Bread Pudding souffle, Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch

Throughout the meal, musicians came around, taking suggestions from diners and elevating the atmosphere from a brunch into a party.

Commander's Palace, New Orleans, jazz brunch, Garden District

They noticed our table swaying to the music and took several requests (We chose “Little Liza Jane” and “Careless Love). The trio finished up with a rollicking version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which sealed my love for Commander’s.

Our total bill came to about $190 for three people. Is that pricey for brunch? Of course. Did I feel the expense was worth it? Absolutely. For proof, here’s a crop of that photo of my husband getting his dessert again. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him so happy with a meal – and that includes the tasting dinner we had at John Besh’s restaurant August last year. While there are so many great places in NOLA to try, I know that he’ll want to go back. Luckily, we visit at least once a year.

What’s your favorite upscale New Orleans restaurant?

 

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Margo June 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm

My first real “foodie,” white tablecloth experience was at Commander’s Palace. I was 10yo. My family took the overnight train – very swanky – from Charlottesville, Va. to New Orleans. I remember we took a streetcar to the restaurant and that we walked around that neighborhood with the Victorian houses beforehand. I had my first Oysters Rockefeller! Would love to go back someday.

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Chris June 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

Such a great foodie memory. Thanks for sharing, Margo!

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Marcia WAll July 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I really like this article and would appreicate the opportunity to re-post it on my blog http://www.411nola.com. I could lead off with a bit about your site in return. Do you fancy that? Thanks for a good read.

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Chris July 12, 2010 at 10:22 am

Thanks, Marcia. It would be better if you quoted part of the article, then sent people back to my site with a link to read the rest. That’s generally the way that most people give “link love” to articles that they like. Thanks for reading!

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Marcia October 20, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Thanks Chris. I’ll be in touch!

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