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Jan 15, 2002 12:04 PM

Whats up at the palace ?

  • p

Hi Chowhounds,
Im making my yearly trip to the Quater this April.I have always had the Sunday brunch at Commanders Palace.Who has taken Jamie Shannon's place as head chef? Has the food changed since his passing?
I had the privalage of meeting Jamie 2 years ago.Spoke mainly about Motorcycles & New York.He was a Jersey boy.It a shame he passed on way too soon.Also,I would
love to have a Crawfish boil.But i never found a place in the Quater that does it.Any Ideals

Phil D.

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  1. Things were rocky at CP's last summer when Jaimie was ill and away from the shop. Lunch last August was satisfactory but unremarkable.(The turtle soup, which is the finest commercially-available in the city, was un-distiguished. Not zippy enough. The coffee was dreadful. No amount of disclaimers that "it's that strong chicory blend we use" can disguise the fact that it was burned. )

    Word from our spies is that certain people know that there are problems and are on the job to shake things up. One hopes so.

    21 Replies
    1. re: Hazelhurst

      Tory McPhail is the new Executive Chef at Commander's Palace. He started working for the Brennans at the Palace Cafe about 9 years ago, then spent a couple of years at Commander's, and, most recently, was chef at the Commander's Palace in Las Vegas.

      1. re: Creole

        From our discussions below I know that you will give me honest reports of restaurants that are popular with tourists as well as locals. I also know that you are extremely sophisticated, at least somewhat connected within the industry and the source of some really good local inside information. Having said that you know I am obsessed with food and quite experienced in eating/dining/drinking my way through not only the Quarter but the suburbs including the old Le Ruth, Mosca's, Lafitte's Landing,some joints I can't remember and further to Breaux Bridge and Opapalousas (which had three or four good restaurants of its own including Enola Prudhomme's).
        Anyway I introduce all of my verbiage to ask you "Why?"
        1. Why does this board focus on Bayona so much; this restaurant receives more press than any other restaurant and, while it is very good, I do not regard it as the best of all the N. O. restaurants. For me the best is the remarkably never mentioned Peristyle (Zagat: food 28, Sidewalk: 5 stars, the only NOLA restaurant to receive this) which I have been to both before and after the fire. Other than one or two really limited threads going back almost a whole year this James Beard Award honoree in NOLA is ignored by this board. I've been to Bayona, Brigsten's, Peristyle and Galatoire's on four successive nights (with lunch at Uglesich and Mother's) and there was absolutely no question which was the best of any of them: Peristyle. Brigsten's was a distant second with the overall "experience" at Galatoire's a close third.
        Has something happened that this restaurant is never discussed by this board? I think it is a New Orleans treasure and all of these discussions about Go to Bayona for your first meal, etc. never mention Peristyle?
        2. After horribly expensive, DISTRESSING dinners over the past six months at Emeril's in Orlando and Emeril's in Las Vegas am I correct when I hear that the New Orleans orgiinal (which I ate at seven times in four days six years ago when he was behind the counter and absolutely loved) is now a shadow of what it once was? Does that mean that the food Emeril woke NOLA up to now lacks the inventive enthusiasm and the real "magic" that he created for it? That, like the others, have become a factory to ferry tourists through who may not know any better? If this is as I expect true, then, Emeril's name will drift off in the wind very quickly unless he comes back in the kitchen himself and personally handles management of his other restaurants with staff he trusts his reputation to. Otherwise he should close them. Orlando is an abomination and an obvious financial play by the company to capitolize on his name. I SHOULD THINK THAT IN ADDITION TO MAKING A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY A CHEF SUCH AS EMERIL SHOULD HAVE THE PRIDE TO BE CONCERNED WITH HOW HISTORY REMEMBERS HIM.
        3. Paul Prudhomme. Like Emeril's the locals disappeared from this one early on also. But K-Paul's was really good in '79 when it opened and it took a few years and price increases coinciding with national press before it started to lose its appeal. But during this time there were some dishes that were truly wonderful which ended up off the menu for the most part, showing up only for special request.
        The single best slice of cake that I have ever had in my life (and I have eaten more good grandmother made cake than ...) was the fresh cracked coconut cake at K-Paul's which he sliced thick and served on a pool of Courvoisier, Grand Marnier laced whipped cream/sour cream. This one slice of cake WAS the best dessert in all of Louisiana, maybe the world. And it was only available about once a month as a special order.
        Has anyone had K-Paul's fresh coconut cake lately there? The recipe, by the way, is in the Prudhomme Family Cook Book and it will be the most time consuming cake you will ever make. You MUST crack the coconut. You can call them and request them to make this cake for the night you visit. It is NOT on the menu. But make the call. This really may be the best American dessert served in any restaurant anywhere in this country. Even my wife agrees with this statement.
        Has anyone had his barbequed shrimp? I actually thought they were better than Manales.
        I know that much of what he did sort of deteriorated to upscale truck stop food almost but Chef Paul did have some truly great dishes. They are NEVER talked about on this board. Why? For all of the "MUST HAVE" dishes in NOLA his coconut cake stands alone as the single best bite of food that I have ever had in the whole state of Louisiana.
        4. Why is Mosca's never talked about on here? This is a great experience outside the city that is duplicated virtually no where else in America. The Creole/Italian seafood is incredible. For twenty years of annual visits I have always gone out of my way to go to Mosca's. For me it is exactly like Mother's, Uglesich and the Central Grocery. Absolute definitive overall experience that can be found nowhere else. For Mosca's they are some of the greatest, greasiest calories that can be consumed anywhere. And if you've got a large group and you're thirsty this will be a REAL good night!

        1. re: Joe

          1. I always talk up Mosca's. My long report on our last visit to NO in May speaks of it in glowing terms. The bowl of crab salad we got was probably the single largest item I've ever been served at a restaurant. Each of the people at the table (8-10 IIRC) got at least three servings.

          2. We've never been to Emeril's outposts in other cities so I can't speak about them but our visits to Emeril's in NO have always been wonderful.

          3. As for Bayona, I hardly think that the people who post on here uniformly consider it the Holy Grail of NO restaurants.

          1. re: Bob W.

            Bob W.:

            Some of the absolute best hyperbole that I've ever read in my life! You found words worthy of the experience.

            1. re: Bob W.

              Name: Bob W.
              Posted: January 17, 2002 at 09:55:35

              3. As for Bayona, I hardly think that the people who post on here uniformly consider it the Holy Grail of NO restaurants.
              Posters here might not consider it the "Holy Grail of NO restaurants", and I certainly have many more to try before I would make that pronouncement. BUT, on two recent visits, it was by far the best of the following: Delmonico, Commander's, the Grill Room, Upperline and NOLA. Not that the others weren't good (except NOLA, which was a huge disappointment), but IMO, what sets Bayona apart in the food department are the deeply intense flavors of the dishes. The difference was striking, for instance, between the appetizer I had at NOLA of crab and scallops in a thin something-or-other sauce, and the appetizer at Bayona of goat cheese crouton with mushrooms in a wonderfully rich sauce. It's as though the cooks actually taste the food and correct seasonings, etc. before it's served. I do love Upperline, both for the food and the friendly, funky atmosphere, and the foie gras at the Grill Room was superb. But, I understand why Bayona gets raves, and with my limited experience in the NO restaurant world, it definitely deserves them. Next time: Brigtsen's, Galatoire's and Peristyle (and Bayona for lunch!).

              1. re: Lauran

                You've saved the three best for last. I'll be interested in your comments about Bayona after you've been to these three, especially Peristyle which I sincerely believe is the best overall restaurant in New Orleans. Don't forget Jacques-Imo's either just go very early. If you have a car Mosca's would be one of the three-it's an experience you simply won't find elsewhere in America.

                1. re: Joe

                  Thanks, Joe - I'll add Jacques-Imo's and Mosca's to my ever-growing list. I can see that I'm going to be planning more trips to New Orleans this year!

            2. re: Joe

              For what it's worth. Most of us that post to this board are not NO natives but rather visitors either looking for advice for offering it based on previous visits (of which I've had a few). My first time, we went to Commander's, Antoine's, Arnaud's, Brennan's and Bayona to name a few. Following trips have included many but not most of the other "big" names including Galioires.
              Here's what (I think) makes Bayona special. The cusine at almost all the "old family" places is wonderful. Each seems to have something special to remember but since most of us are visiting for a short time, we tend to jam them in over only a few days. They soon become (forgive me) somewhat all the same. Then you go to Bayona and get something a little differant. The food is not creole but really,really good. It's refreshing. The place is small, cozy and hospitable. There's a good chance that Susan Spicer will come to your table and chat. With sincerity!! This leaves an impression unique from the others and that's why so many of us remember and recommend Bayona.
              NO is a neat place and you never know what you're going to find (one of my best lunchs was at a place called either Jimmy K's or Johnnie K's on Magazine.Abslolutey no class; best lima beans and hamhocks in universe). Worst experience - Dookie Chases.
              This is just my opinion, what do you think?

              1. re: Sony Bob

                Actually I live in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. but I've travelled to N. O. several times a year for almost 25 years. I do like Bayona. I've had several very good meals there which were overall excellent experiences. But, personally, I feel that Peristyle is a bit better. Somehow, on this board, so often travellers like ourselves ask for recommendations either from locals or other travellers. Bayona is always mentioned. Like some others it has become a standard and a destination. But if you look back over the last year on this board there are actually very few mentions of Peristyle. I think I saw only one actual review or comment about the writer having dined there. To me this was remarkable given its reputation locally and the various accolades it has received.
                Then I also started searching for Mosca's and, again, there were only a couple of mentions over the past year (including one great one cited above (!)). I haven't seen a single post about K-Paul's which, actually, I understand. But having said that I wonder how many people who read this board have ever had his coconut cake with chantilly whipped cream or his barbequed shrimp? I stand by my comment that the coconut cake is the single best bite of food that one can have in the entire state of Louisiana. (Not as good of hyperbole as above but a sincere attempt at what, honestly, is not an exaggeration!)
                My point is that the same restaurants, over and over, are reported on and recommended. I have no problem with this. It's as it should be and what they have earned. But some of the absolute best experiences in and around the city may have been overlooked. I just wanted to call attention to them so that others can fully know what's available.
                This is an especially valuable board among all of those on Chowhound. Through it I've discovered restaurants like Jacques-Imo and others. I really enjoy reading this board. But sometimes I just wonder if those who live in or near N. O. even overlook Mosca's or Peristyle?
                Actually, if anything, New Orleans has a problem. It can be damned difficult to have a bad meal anywhere. There aren't too many other places on earth you can say that about!

                1. re: Joe

                  Joe, you are absolutely correct. It IS damn hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans. What makes this site so neat is that great places like Peristyle come to the front. I guess my point is that most people try to do the biggies because that's what'expected and when they get home, everyone asks if they went to Emeril's, Commander's Palace, etc.. It takes a couple of visits just to get past the "expected" places. (I DO NOT own a Pat O'Brien's glass)and a couple of visits is all most travellers get. It's expensive to get there and it's expensive to stay there much less to eat there. I envy anyone who can get there often. You are blessed. I promise the next time I get there I will hit every place you recommend.

                  1. re: Sony Bob

                    Thanks, Bob, but I've never trusted a skinny chef or cook. If they look like they eat what they cook then that's the place for a meal.
                    New Orleans has a lot of overweight kitchen help.

                    1. re: Sony Bob
                      Vital Information

                      Nothing like jumping in late to a thread, right in the middle.

                      Another thing I'd like to add, and I have said this before on this board, is that most tourists to New Orleans lack a car. This is the single biggest factor in how they experience New Orleans. Thus, most tourists stick to the places near their hotels, i.e., in the quarter or CBD. I do not know if Ugelisch's would have reached cult status if it was not where it was.


                2. re: Joe

                  Sorry that it took so long for me to respond, but I was traveling and then participated in the Krewe du Vieux carnival parade last Saturday night. At my age, it takes several days to recover from such partying (New Orleans: Proud to Crawl Home). Anyway, while I mostly agree with your opinions concerning Peristyle and Bayona, here is a little background and my thoughts on Anne Kearney Sand & Peristyle and Susan Spicer & Bayona.

                  Kearney (from Dayton, Ohio) only began her cooking career in New Orleans at the Bistro at Maison de Ville (with the late great chef Jophn Neal whom she also worked for as sous chef when he opened Peristyle in 1991) after Susan Spicer left that restaurant to open Bayona in early 1990. Susan Spicer (born in Key West and was a "Navy brat" until her family settled in New Orleans) has been cooking on and off (mostly "on") in New Orleans since 1979 -- first as an apprentice to Chef Daniel Bonnot at the Louis XVI Restaurant, then as chef de cuisine at the Savoir Faire in the St. Charles Hotel, followed by line cook at Henri in the New Orleans Meridien Hotel, and finally as chef at the Bistro at Maison deVille before opening Bayona. Her experience (which also includes a stint at Meilleur Oeuvrier de France at the Hotel Sofitel in Paris with Chef Roland Durand) is much broader, more varied, and certainly deeper than Kearney's (who also worked for Emeril Lagasse in various assistant roles from 1992 to 1995).

                  FWIW, in my opinion, Peristyle made a huge local marketing error during the time it was closed for renovations after the fire. If I remember correctly (early onset of Alzheimer's?), Peristyle sent out a letter to former local clientele requesting a significant sum of money to "buy a table" or maybe it was to become a "member" -- anyway, this "membership" promised you priority reservations at a moment's notice, special service, maybe even your choice of tables, and perhaps other special benefits. A lot of people, including me, were turned off by this ploy of a private club within a public restaurant and thought of it as a marketing scam, and the idea was apparently dropped.

                  Bayona was a remarkably wonderful, inventive restaurant in the early 1990's before Spicer became involved in other projects. Therein probably lies the reason why many find Peristyle superior to Bayona today (I must say that my wife is definitely not in that number -- she still adores Bayona, but she is a real romantic who lives somewhat in the past). Spicer has had several other projects taking significant amounts of her attention: the relatively short-lived Spice, Inc., the ever-improving Herbsaint, and, now, Cobalt in the Hotel Monaco. In contrast, Kearney has kept Peristyle a family operation (her husband is the manager and her brother is sous chef). However, I did cringe when I learned of her collaborative effort with Outback Steakhouse on the Zazarac restaurants in Orlando and Tampa, but both restaurants failed late last summer after being open only a few months.

                  In addition, I agree with most of what you stated about Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. I still occasionally go to Emeril's, and, even though it is nowhere near as good as it was before he became a celebrity, I believe it is still in the top 25 restaurants in town. K-Paul's, well, I haven't been there in almost 15 years, but the reports I get don't make me think I'm missing anything (I cannot recall ever having the coconut cake, but I am not a real cake fan).

                  The reasons I think Mosca's (not as good as it was 20 years ago, but what is?) gets so little mention on this board (which is mostly posts by non-residents) are: accepts only cash; is kind of difficult for tourists to find or get to; and is really only good if there are 4 or more in your dining party (for parties with fewer diners, it can be pretty lame).

                  Now, for my respectful disagreement with some of your other comments (you knew this was coming, didn't you?): Mother's is simply a tourist trap (e.g., overpriced po'boys that are much better almost anywhere else) and has been for many years now -- there is no way I would ever return to what used to be one of my favorite breakfast and lunch spots many years ago; I keep thinking that Uglesich's is rapidly heading down that same path, but I still eat lunch there about every 2 or 3 months -- so, in my opinion, it still hasn't reached tourist trap status (yet); Central Grocery is and has been FTO (For Tourists Only) for 20 years (just look at that huge pile of pre-made muffalettas).

                  1. re: Creole

                    Ooops! Cut and paste did me in again. The phrase reading "at Meilleur Oeuvrier de France at the Hotel Sofitel in Paris with Chef Roland Durand" should be "at the Hotel Sofitel in Paris with Chef Roland Durand, a Master Chef of France and recipient of Meilleur Ouvrier de France."

                    1. re: Creole

                      Ok, Creole, now that Progress Grocery has shut down its storefront operation, where would you go for a good muffaletta?

                      1. re: Bob W.

                        If you are eating in, go to Napoleon House in the Quarter. Out doubt the BEST.

                        If you have a car, go to NorJoe, you have to take it with you though, they do not have dining. Its where the locals get theirs.


                        1. re: Yvette

                          I agree 100% with Yvette, if she means that the Napoleon House has the best muffalettas in the Quarter. Nor-Joe Importing Co. on Frisco Ave. in Metairie makes the best muffalettas anywhere, hands down. However, they are often r-e-a-l s-l-o-w, so call ahead to order.

                      2. re: Creole

                        I really enjoyed reading your response. Thanks for taking the time. Your history of Bayona and Peristyle and their respective chef/owners was extremely interesting. If I had been approached about participating in a "scheme" for a private table or preferred reservations I would have reacted quite negatively myself. If financing is a problem then why not simply sell shares in the restaurant and limit them so you do not lose your control? It would seem there are always a few people who are interested in something like this when the restaurant is extremely popular. ("My restaurant, Peristyle.") Having said that the "family operation" is something that appeals to me because usually the standards and philosophy are maintained. Corporations usually have different long term goals and values than individuals or families.
                        I have been to Mosca's a half dozen times or more and, when I think about it, we have always had a fairly large group of six to ten. Somehow this for me is a restaurant that seems to demand a group type of experience to fully appreciate it.
                        I haven't been to Mother's in two years. (On my three or four visits to NOLA in the past two years I've recently ended up at Uglesich for lunch when I've had the time for lunch. (Usually several day visits.) ) But two years ago breakfast with the black (?) ham was really good and the roast beef with debri was excellent. Central Grocery I like the smell of but there are other meals in New Orleans that I prefer.
                        Because of Emeril's and K-Paul's I now understand why some restaurants in Paris limit the number of Americans/tourists that they allow in at any one time. At some point the character of the room changes and it is no longer the local experience that is wanted. For me this can kill a restaurant. Cibreo and Il Latini in Florence are like this and because of it we don't go back.
                        We are probably the same age. If you are ever in the D. C. area it would be a pleasure to meet you.

                        1. re: Creole

                          Yo Creole:

                          The lines outside of Mother's sure impressed me as well as the comments of The Sterns - a couple who does know something about food. Roadfood's recommendations are consistantly right on the money!

                          Anyway, I stood in line on a Saturday afternoon at Mothers and had the recommended Debris Po Boy and it was tremendous! What a business they do and let me tell you, they ain't cooking off all those black hams and roast beefs for nothing. Hounds - Go there!

                        2. re: Joe
                          michael (mea culpa)

                          I ate at K-Paul's once maybe 10 years ago. We had to wait on line, sit at a table with another couple, eat faster than I might like so that the table could be turned. But I have to admit the food was very good. And the people we were seated with were very charming. On subsequent visits to NOLA the uncertainty of the line always stopped me from returning. (Although it didn't stop me from going to Galatoire's repeatedly.) Anyway, I've heard that Paul has had ongoing health problems and had to deal with his wife's death. I wonder what the food is like now. How good or disappointing is it?

                          1. re: Joe

                            Please keep the subject titles short and to the point. Long subject titles mess up the board indexes. Thanks.