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Jfood back in NOLA - Brigtsens, Commanders, K-Pauls, Camellia Grill, et. al. (long)

jfood Oct 2, 2007 08:30 AM

So the Jfoods returned to NOLA and began with a relaxing walk from our hotel to the FQ for an afternoon snack of beignets and iced coffee at Café du Monde. The Jfoods just love that place, three visits in three days on this trip. Once again it was fantastic, a three-beignet order split between M&M Jfood (you can guess who ate two) and on the first visit, they listened to a great duet named “Sister” (even bought their CD). This was a great way to start the food adventure in NOLA. Now all the Jfoods needed was a leisurely walk to get ready for Brigtsens. On a subsequent visit they brown-bagged it and watched a fantastic three-man dance team called something Dragon. They were very entertaining both with their humor directed at the crowd and their break dance routines.

On to Brigtsen’s and once again Chef Frank nailed it. Jfood went for an adventurous menu (it was real hard not ordering the duck w cherry sauce, his favorite). This time he started with the sweetbreads with potato leek cake and merliton corn relish and ordered the braised venison with roasted vegetables and apple cider pan gravy for his entrée. Both dishes were off the chart great. Chef Frank placed the sliced venison over a fantastic sweet potato and corn hash that was divine and was a perfect compliment to the venison. Jfood was a little disappointed that he did not have Chef Frank’s perfect mashed potatoes (Mrs. Jfood saw that “look” and offered some from her plate, actually almost all of them, he just loves her). J Then M&M Jfood split the double chocolate cake once again, well almost split. Mrs. Jfood took a break to chat with little Jfood and when she returned to the cake it mysteriously disappeared. Gee, wonder where it went? J Thank you so much Chef Frank for yet another perfect meal.

Saturday brought another nice stroll through the FQ and we hit the eastern half just in time (imagine how lucky that timing was) to grab a Muffuletta at Central Grocers. This is still one of the great sandwich creations in America. It was quite a scene with Tulane playing LSU up the street at the Super Dome and Tulane scoring to take the lead 9-7 (LSU eventually won the game by over 20 points.) The Jfoods decided to split a half a sandwich, more than enough for a normal appetite. The bread was already nicely soaked with oil, and it was a 20-napkin event to eat just a half. The olive salad had a nice tang and did not overwhelm those great meats, and the cheese had nice sharpness to compliment it all. Remember to use lots of napkins and lean forward when biting or the drip will land in your lap.

Jfood visit to K-Paul’s was not a positive memory. They decided to try this resto since Jfood thought little Jfood would like the extra heat in the food and it’s a landmark. She did enjoy her spinach salad and blackened drum. But Jfood thought the resto has major room to improve. Other than a pretty good server, everything in this resto was, at best, mediocre. First touch point was the hostess and she was very nasty. What is so difficult in asking if the customer prefers the first or second floor? And please do not take offense if a customer wants to stay on the first floor since some of the appeal of K-Paul’s is being a part of the “action” on the first floor. They were finally seated and Jfood was able to watch the open kitchen. The kitchen staff looked bored and robotic and did not look like they were enjoying preparing the food. And the food showed it, as it arrived with no love. Jfood started with the turtle soup and upon delivery a runner arrived and basically threw some sherry into the soup, not very professional at all. Jfood's entrée was the special rabbit with jambalaya. The rabbit was merely breaded and sautéed with very little flavor (think chicken cutlet) with some jambalaya, which was tasty, but was overcooked. Mrs. Jfood ordered a salad and when she asked for it lightly dressed was told that they do not dress salad, that they are all delivered sauce on the side, huh? The salad arrived and it looked like someone reached into a pile of greens at the grocer and threw them on a plate. And the taste was not much better. When she ordered her entrée, duck and shrimp, she asked if the duck could be cooked through, not rare as the case in many restos. She was told that the kitchen cooks it only one way and she would be happy. Wrong. It was cooked for hours and was beyond overcooked. It was basically inedible. After tasting both hers, and mine she sent hers back and decided to order nothing else. The server did the appropriate thing and removed Mrs. Jfood’s dish from the bill. Unfortunately, to add insult to injury they actually charge $1.50 for refills on soda. At $30 per entrée, the resto should absorb the $0.25 of syrup, totally classless. Jfood knows that many told him this was a tourist trap, but it was not event hat good. K-Paul’s is officially on the Do Not Return list.

But victory was pulled out of the jaws defeat and after they dropped off little Jfood back at the dorm the Jfoods went to Brigtsens. Mrs. Brigtsen opened her arms to them and after a slight wait; the Jfoods sat and ate a glorious mini-meal. A wonderfully prepared salad and the shrimp and rice cake for Mrs. Jfood and a nice cup of butternut squash bisque with shrimp for Jfood. Let’s not forget a wonderful dessert of double chocolate layer cake and a visit with Chef Frank. What a great man. He spent the whole dessert chatting with the Jfoods. It was once again perfect food and perfect company.

Camellia Grill – Jfood loves the energy at this place at what a scene the Jfoods walked into. As you may know there are two grills to service the crowd. On this day there seemed to have been an issue between one of the cooks and the owner and the cook disappeared out the front door, so there was a one-cook situation for the whole resto. The hostess on this trip was very pleasant and even let the Jfoods pick their seats so their favorite server, Word, could take care of them. Jfood loves that guy. So the Jfoods order their normal bacon-cheeseburger with mayo and a dry BLT. Suddenly, the remaining cook, seeing his partner leave, points his spatula at the owner standing at the front door and asks for more money. You could see the waiters listening carefully with one ear to see if they may also benefit from this situation. It was quite a scene, and the cook settled down after the owner whispered something in his ear. But the food was great. The bacon-cheeseburger was perfect, the fries crispy and golden and the chocolate freeze for Jfood reminded Jfood of those from his youth. It doesn’t get better than this. And then when you thought that the scene had calmed down, one of the other waiters said something to piss off the remaining cook. The cook stared at him and said “I ain’t cookin’ your food now.” Sheer silence ensued. The Jfoods had finished their meal, got up and left at this point. Never piss off the cook.

Commanders Palace – the Jfoods decided for their last meal in NOLA to hit one of their favorites, Commanders Palace. It is still a beautiful resto. It is beginning to get a little stuffy though and it needs to be more consistent in acceptable attire. Jfood arrived with college Jfood wearing a nice blouse over shorts. The resto would not seat them (the Jfoods ran back to the dorm to change and returned) as their policy is “no shorts.” It’s their resto and they can do as they please but they need to be a little more consistent given that the college boy at the next table was wearing beat up jeans and a T-shirt hanging out of his jeans. Go figure. The food on this visit was not up to par with the last two times Jfood ate here. Jfood ordered the Turtle Soup, the Pan Seared Flounder and the bread pudding soufflé. The turtle soup was very good and much better than the one at K-Paul’s. And the service to add the sherry to the bowl was nicely performed. The wait was a little too long in Jfood's opinion between app and entrée, bordering 35 minutes, but it is NOLA, but little Jfood needed to get back to school to study. The flounder was served over a bed of onions and tomatoes, very light and delicate. Mrs. Jfood ordered the Drum over a bed of sweet potatoes and she told Jfood it was very good as well, but just did not have the zip as the last two visits. College Jfood ordered the Shrimp with black pepper in sauce and she loved it. Custos should be aware that they serve one of the shrimp with the head still attached if that is an issue for anyone. She asked Jfood to remove the head and when he cut it off he did notice that the shrimp was slightly undercooked near the head. He spied carefully as college Jfood cut hers, but they were better cooked. Then the soufflé arrived and this is still Jfood's favorite dish in NOLA. For some reason tonight’s was just a little off, maybe because it was a Sunday and the pastry chef might have had the night off, but it did not jump as much as previous soufflés Jfood has eaten there. And it seemed a little over-baked. Likewise Jfood ordered a cup of herbal tea and they had none. But overall a very good meal at Commanders once again, but there was room for improvement.

http://jfoodonfood.blogspot.com

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  1. b
    Blumie Oct 2, 2007 10:24 AM

    jfood, thanks for the great writeup, as always. FWIW, though, I find it terribly difficult to read your posts. To the extent you want to give me a vote, I would much prefer that you write in the first person, and leave it to Elmo to talk about himself in the third person.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Blumie
      d
      dklipscomb Oct 2, 2007 11:34 AM

      Jfood,I think all of your posts are a great read..knowledge, gracious, common sense and a healthy dose of humor when needed! (I find them an easy-enjoyable read)

      1. re: Blumie
        southerngal Oct 2, 2007 01:30 PM

        Thanks also for the great details. I can't believe K-Paul's charges for soda refills. I don't appreciate anyone charging for soda refills......but K-Paul's?? I wouldn't have expected that.
        I checked out your blog. I was happy to see that it was written in the first person...much easier to read. Thanks!

        1. re: southerngal
          k
          kevin Oct 6, 2007 09:16 PM

          the weird thing i've noticed over the years is that the more expensive the restaurant the less chance for refills.

          case in point, virtually all chain fast food restaurants will fill er up to your heart's content.

          but go somewhere like puck's spago or in the case of N.O. to KPaul's and refills are not free (and both have entrees in the 30s if not higher).

          i guess free refills are not seen as classy.

          1. re: kevin
            Bill Hunt Oct 7, 2007 03:27 PM

            Now, if I can only find a restaurant where there ARE free-refills for my Montrachet by-the-glass... [GRIN]

            Hunt

      2. pikawicca Oct 2, 2007 01:50 PM

        For a classic experience, I would skip K Pauls and head to Gallatoires. This place hasn't changed since my first visit with my parents, many years ago.

        FWIW, your use of the third person doesn't bother me at all, altough I wouldn't like to see it become a trend.

        4 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca
          k
          kevin Oct 6, 2007 09:16 PM

          yeah, but do they have free refills at Galatoire's on sodas????

          1. re: kevin
            p
            Philly Oct 7, 2007 06:54 AM

            I would also pick Galatoire's over KPauls. I don't use "free refills on sodas" as a criteria when selecting a restaurant; maybe it's because I don't drink soda.

            1. re: Philly
              jfood Oct 7, 2007 07:18 AM

              i do not view charge for refills as a criteria it was just a surprise. hey, we ordered it and drank it. but it is rare that i see this at any resto. just a data point so others would not be surprised. plus i think it's a bit penny pinching on the resto's part.

              http://jfoodonfood.blogspot.com

              1. re: jfood
                pikawicca Oct 7, 2007 04:49 PM

                I think Kevin's post was meant to be ironic.

        2. Bill Hunt Oct 2, 2007 08:30 PM

          JFood,

          Thanks for the update/reviews. I always like the reinforcement, when it comes to my #1 restaurant in NOLA - Brigtsen's. Last couple of trips have been for largish family events, which are very nice, but we need to go as just a couple. It's been too many years, since we did that.

          I am surprised at K-Paul's, as I've read a lot of positive reviews and recs. on this board lately. I was really planning on adding it to the list for next trip, but may rethink that. It's been since we lived in NOLA, that we last dined there.

          Camilia Grill is always good for fun, but you seemed to have hit them on a day, when there was intrigue afoot. Glad you were done before the defication hit the ocillator. We were doing lunch on western O`ahu, when the sous-chef and the exec. chef got into a knife fight! We, too, were done, and quickly beat a hasty retreat.

          Commanders used to be our "go to, special occasion" place, but they let us down twice. Food was still good, but service was really spotty and the front of the house dropped the ball - big time on both visits.

          As to the dress-code, maybe it's because I'm old, and recall the grand days of dining in NOLA, when the family came over from the Coast, but I still enjoy well-dressed patrons. As for the ragged jeans, I think someone slipped through a loophole. I'd like to see "jackets *required* for gentlemen" at more spots, but I think I am being anachronistic and am in the minority. Still, I recall when ladies at Ole Miss could not leave the dorm in shorts! OK, that's been almost 40 years ago, but that was the way it was in the South.

          Glad that you had a good time, but do wish that it had all been 100%. Maybe next time. BTW, how come you guys were NOT at that football game? [Grin]

          Hunt

          PS, I enjoy your style and the humor of the pieces. Nothing bothers me, at all.

          PPS, next time you're dining in NOLA, look for the old guy with the grey beard and not too much hair, either wearing the white suit, or the navy dbl. breasted blazer, and usually with his Tabasco tie! Stop by the table and say Hi.

          1. c
            Clarkafella Oct 2, 2007 10:28 PM

            What a difference a day makes! We ate at K-Pauls on Friday night. Even though we did not have a reservation, and there were a lot of people in town for the game, the very nice young man who was hosting promised us a table for five (a lot harder to seat than the traditional groups of 2 or 4) within three minutes- and he did, upstairs.

            I didn't even know K-Pauls had an upstairs until we were seated there, but it too had an open kitchen, and they seemed to be working pretty hard...

            I decided to try the blackened drum; my wife had the rabbit and jambalaya. I think that everyone else at the table had something different. We did have several appetizers and several bottles of wine. At some point in time I plan on writing a full review of our trip, but for now suffice it to say that the only way that K-Pauls could have been any better would have been if we were sharing a table with J-food, Bill Hunt, Hungry Celeste, Paul Prudhomme, and a few others from this board!

            More later, but I am sorry if it wasn't good for you!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Clarkafella
              dcata25 Oct 3, 2007 07:05 AM

              We go to K-Paul's every trip to NOLA which is about 3 to 4 times a year and it is a TO DO for us. We go every time. Every meal and service have been top notch. I would not scratch them off your list.

              1. re: Clarkafella
                k
                kevin Oct 6, 2007 09:19 PM

                what is paul prudhomme a frequent chowhound poster? maybe i missed something.

              2. k
                KBus Oct 6, 2007 06:33 AM

                Jfood, I, too have a lone daughter beginning college in NOLA! Thanks to her, we have been able to visit a city that we've never experienced before now. The food is amazing. We've enjoyed Commanders Palace, Palace Cafe for brunch, Bacco's, (great lobster ravioli), Shula's,etc...had planned on visiting K-pauls, took that off my list after seeing some of the reviews. Will def try Brigtsen's. Have you tried Stella's?

                2 Replies
                1. re: KBus
                  jfood Oct 6, 2007 07:01 AM

                  next trip scheduled for january. already told Chef Frank and Marna i want to celebrate at Brigtsens. Stella definitely on the list for the next trip, then the big event at the end of April.

                  1. re: KBus
                    j
                    JazzyB Dec 19, 2007 03:58 PM

                    Add Herbsaint to your " to go" list.

                  2. c
                    chef4hire Oct 6, 2007 05:56 PM

                    wow...find it hard to believe that KPaul's was that bad...we were there less than a month ago and found it to be as consistent if not better than ever

                    FWIW- Chef Frank worked under Chef Paul and considers him to be the best - take a NOCE cooking class w/Chef Frank about his days with Prudhomme...he has the most respect for that man - they're both class acts

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chef4hire
                      jfood Oct 6, 2007 07:13 PM

                      Chef frank is absolute class act and a perfect gentleman. When he asked me why we were there so late and i mentioned the meal at k-pauls he was extremely complimentary of the resto and was in disbelief that we did not enjoy. Love that guy.

                      1. re: jfood
                        k
                        kevin Oct 6, 2007 09:24 PM

                        yes, k paul's is a tourist trap (it's in the French Quarter for crying out loud), but a good one, who else is making stuffed soft shell crab with seafood bienville dressing or fried oysters with a saucing of roasted pecans, brown butter, veal glaze, some more butter, and jalapenos. the blackened drum and/or tuna is great, and classic paradigms of the blackened mania that chef Paul started years ago.

                        just saw Paul Prudhomme taking pictures and signing books at the recent Food and Wine fest in Los Angeles. they were serving shrimp st. charles but alas Chef P was not at the stove.

                        1. re: kevin
                          jfood Oct 7, 2007 05:43 AM

                          K

                          I had a meal at KP that i did not enjoy and my wife felt was inedible and reported here, that's all. Others have called it a tourist trap, others like or love it. that's the beauty of these boards.

                          I hope that all restos in the FQ are not tourist traps and will keep moving around to other restos in the FQ and enjoy as many meals as possible.

                    2. k
                      kevin Oct 6, 2007 09:26 PM

                      give k paul's another try.

                      and frank is an acolyte of chef p.

                      last time in nola, i didn't make it to kpaul's but did make it to Brigsten's and it was an excellent meal (my friend didn't share my sentiment at all), awesome, awesome, awesome, roast duck with tart dried cherry sauce. that duck was so good, that i forgot about the goodness of the mashed potatoes.

                      sorry, i'm the guy in the corner with jeans and a tshirt (hopefully a jazz fest one).

                      1. m
                        MaLicious Oct 30, 2007 07:27 PM

                        Jfood - I know it is a bit late to respond to your blog - but I am brand new to Chowhound. Insp. M and I just returned from NOLA and had the most bodacious meal at Brigtsen's. We ate at Cochon the night prior and enjoyed it very much but Brigtsen's was off the map good. So enjoyed every bite and the folks were great. Got to spend a little time with Chef - but mostly his wife and sis-in-laws. They were darling. Had a fantastic wine - Sirocco. First time back since "The Storm." Found a city on its knees rallying. Can't wait to go eat again. (Had beignets on Sunday PM. YUM.) So glad I found you. Love your style.

                        1. dcata25 Dec 18, 2007 04:44 AM

                          Deepster - you crack me up. But it's the truth. I find his posts very strange also.

                          1. j
                            JazzyB Dec 19, 2007 03:55 PM

                            Unfortunately K-Paul's is not the restaurant it used to be (pre credit card, reservations, private tables and indoor restrooms). Those were the days! Chef Paul was always in the house. Cajun party atmosphere with perfectly (highly) seasoned food. The same dishes today barely resemble (much less taste) the same. The food was prepared the way the chef preferred (rather than the watered down tourist food served today). It was a very special place with food like no other. It's sad that I can no longer recommend it.

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