Despite having visited New Orleans quite a few times, we had never been to Commander’s Palace for their jazz brunch. Fortunately we were able to make it work on the final day of our New Orleans weekend.
For brunch, there is no real a la carte dining. When you choose an entree, the price comes with an appetizer and dessert. Within the menu, they do a “Jazz Brunch Special” with their more popular appetizer, entree and dessert along with their famous Bloody Mary. While the price is a bit cheaper, since there was four of us, we wanted to try some different items as well as not get locked in with the choices from the special.
After ordering, they brought out some delicious, hot and crusty, garlic bread for the table. So much garlic, tons of butter, but I could have eaten the whole plate! To be polite, I did share with everyone else at the table.
To start, Adam ordered a Bloody Mary. What I love about New Orleans is that a Bloody Mary always comes with pickled vegetables. Both Adam and I love anything pickled and find pickles the best add-on to a Bloody Mary. The one at Commander’s Palace came with pickled okra and a cherry pepper. I had a sip and thought it was quite good. Adam definitely enjoyed it and ordered another after finishing off the first.
I was in the mood for something more on the sweet side and Adam recommended a Milk Punch. I had never heard of a Milk Punch and was intrigued to try it. Milk Punch is a drink that is common in New Orleans and consists of milk, brandy or bourbon, sugar, and vanilla extract. Usually, nutmeg is also sprinkled on top. I enjoyed it, though I found it quite sweet.
Commander’s Palace is broken up into two “houses”, and we had been seated in the second house. The first house consisted of the kitchen and to get to the house where we were seated, we had to walk through the courtyard. Due to the rain, they did not have people sitting out there for brunch.
Adam started off with the Turtle Soup, which is definitely one of Commander’s Palace’s most famous dishes. The soup had a dark roux, chunks of turtle and veal and some small perfectly cooked pieces of onion, bell pepper and celery. Due to the roux, it was more like a stew than a soup, but the flavor was fantastic! Like a lot of “exotic” meats, the turtle tasted similar to chicken. The soup had a kick that was really nice and a rich beef flavor from the stock.
Since Adam got the Turtle Soup, I decided to get the gumbo. The gumbo changes daily and, on the day we were there, it was a chicken and mushroom gumbo. I love gumbo and I love mushrooms, so I couldn’t be happier when the gumbo came to the table. I wasn’t disappointed. There were chunks of chicken and mushroom in the gumbo and the dark roux brought everything together.
Adam decided to get the Louisiana blue crab and crawfish frittata (Local blue crab, Breaux Bridge crawfish, mizuna, torched shallots, Creole baby tomatoes, wild mushrooms and Laura Chanel goat’s cheese with white truffle oil), which I had also been eyeing. We were surprised when it came to the table and looked more like an egg patty with toppings on top. Usually a frittata has the items baked into the egg but Commander’s Palace had them mostly resting on the top. Either way, Adam really enjoyed it since it had crawfish, mushrooms, and tomatoes – some of Adam’s favorite foods – on it.
So we could try something else, I got the Louisiana seafood boil (Spicy Breaux Bridge crawfish, Gulf shrimp, and local crab over a variety of crab boiled vegetables & house made andouille sausage with two poached eggs and brown butter hollandaise). The description didn’t prepart me for what came to the table but I really loved their interpretation of a seafood boil. The brown towers was a fried patty of the crawfish, shrimp and crab and they were fried perfectly. The crab boiled vegetables added some moisture to the dish as well as the poached eggs. While the dish was very heavy, I literally wanted to pick up the plate and lick it.
For dessert, Adam got the Ponchatoula strawberry shortcake (First of the season sweet strawberries layered in a warm buttermilk biscuit with whipped chantilly cream and a dusting of powdered sugar). The biscuit was really soft and the strawberries were very sweet, a perfect “light” ending to the meal.
After all of the rave reviews of the bread pudding, I couldn’t leave without giving it a try and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. While I don’t eat a lot of desserts, this might have been one of the best soufflés I’ve ever had. The soufflé was so light and fluffy and the bread pudding was so moist. With the addition of the whiskey cream sauce tableside, it was SO good. I was concerned that with the sauce, it would be too sweet, but I found the soufflé at the right level of sweetness for my taste. The whole table agreed that it was to die for.
The Jazz brunch is definitely worth it. While a bit pricey, we found the portions very large, service very friendly and the jazz band would even take requests! Since there are two parts to the restaurant, there were lulls where we were able to carry on a conversation during the meal before the jazz band came back. I hate meals where you can’t talk with your fellow diners so I really enjoyed that the jazz band didn’t play the whole time in our area. However, I will say the jazz band was really great and very energetic and it just made the whole experience that much better. This might be one of my favorite brunches that I have ever been to.
A couple of things to note: reservations are a must! Since Commander’s Palace is on a side street in the Garden District, if you’re staying near Bourbon Street, take either the streetcar or a cab. Also, the dress code at Commander’s Palace is slightly strict. There have been reports of people being turned away if you come in shorts. Always best for men to be in long pants and a jacket and no flip flops for women, even for brunch!
I had thought that Commander’s Palace was overhyped but I found their jazz brunch a really great way to experience some great renditions of New Orleans staples in a friendly, fun atmosphere.