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Oct 30, 2008 03:12 PM

Horrible Experience at Commander's

This is the email I sent to Commander's after my dinner there Mon night. Wow, have any of you locals noticed a significant drop off post Katrina? Just curious if I just caught them on a really, really, really bad night.

I was in town with 3 people earlier this week. None had been to Commander's so (having been a half dozen times or so) I insisted we go to dinner there. Also, this was my first trip post Katrina.

In a nutshell, incredibly disappointed. First I'll say I'm well aware of the fine dining movement away from jacket/tie and all of the other formalities. So the fact that Commander's has joined in doesn't bother me all that much. Here were our issues from the top:

No black napkins offered. We're all in dark suits. Better linens sometimes don't shed but these did.

Sommelier?? Not sure if he/she has Monday's off or if you've done away with one all together. With a wine list of this caliber certainly a somm is warranted. Kenny (I believe that was his name) introduced himself as the manager and said, "I'm not a sommelier but I like wine." Okay...Anyway, our first bottle was off (and he agreed) so we sent it back. We ordered another Bourdeaux and 2 subsequent ones thereafter. We asked for bourdeaux glasses and were told you only now have 1 white and 1 red glass?!?! Really? We also had to request that the wine be decanted.

Our server, Jenny, gradually went from pleasant - though not particularly informative - to frustrated (quote, "hey, I don't order the wine, I just wait tables") to flat out indifferent. Somewhat in her defense, I will say we are all frequent customers of fine dining restaurants and have high standards for what we should receive from a restaurant like Commanders. As we are perusing the menu, we had to ask about the chef's tasting menu and then it was just, "yeah, these are pre-selected courses by the chef and everyone at the table has to participate". She pushed the soft shell crab special. 2 of us were going to order that but were told the kitchen ran out (another quote from Jenny, "I don't do the food buying. If I did, we'd have more back there!"). Did I mention the dining room was half full and it was only 8 pm? How do you run out of your special at 8 pm on a slow night?

Crumbs sat on our table throughout the meal.

As we ordered the first bottle of wine, we'd told Kenny to go ahead and open the 2nd one and decant it. Didn't happen.

The final straw was the food. Turtle Soup was incredible as always. After the soft shell was gone, I ordered the duck. Luckily I prefer it med rare since I wasn't asked how I wanted it prepared. And, with the exception of one person at the table, the entrees came out warm, not hot.

Again, I'm in top notch restaurants every week so I understand you may not have the A team working Mondays and chefs often take that night off. And I know restaurants are being forced to become more user friendly to the average consumer. Overall, the experience was a mere shell of the phenomenal meals I've had there in the past. Is this a concerted effort to 'dummy down' the grande dame of NOLA dining or did we just stumble into a coincidential collision of bad service, poor attention to detail and average food? I'm very much hoping its the latter.

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  1. Snootyfoodie,

    That sounds like my report (pre-K and pre-CH) of my dining experience there. I chalked it up to Chef Jamie Shannon having just died. The evening went pretty much as you describe, except that our confirmed reservation for a particular table (confirmed by phone twice, two letters and a FAX), was ignored. "Some important people wanted that table... "

    I've only been there on two events, and they were OK, but nothing more.

    They still hold a special place in my heart, but even my wife, who celebrated about 15 of her birthdays at table #8 does not want to go back. We will, but I'll probably look at it with a very critical eye.

    Sorry to hear that they are slipping, and slipping badly.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      It has been said that Jamie Shannon's passing had a significant and lasting effect on the restaurant but most reports post K have been that the bar has been raised to it's usual level of perfection
      I am sorry your experience was so dismal. I hope it was an off night.

    2. It is quite unfortunate that your meal was not as pleasant as those jfood has enjoyed at CP. He, like many has his favorite table when he is in NOLA and has always enjoyed the elegance that CP has brought to every meal.

      Bill Hunt and jfood have had very different experiences at two of NOLA's faves and jfood has always had perfect service at CP (understand there was no interaction with the wine, since he does not drink). And given the times he has been there post-K, he chalks your experience to either a bad night (all restaurants have them) or the OP only writing half the story. As jfood's grandmother used to say. There are two sides to every story and then what really happened.

      He just has a hard time with this one, given his experiences there.

      1. Will you look at that. You turn your back and dining becomes all about napkin color. I'm moving to Namibia. I'm told they like to eat there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: HalfShell

          black napkins have been in the offering for years. it is frustrating to have those pesky white ones shed on you. just happened to us at Rambla the other night. it is the little attention to details and service that can set one apart.
          I remember a restaurant having these cheap polyester napkins that repelled anything spilled on them only to have your clothing wick up the spills. not fun when your waiter dumps water when refilling glasses.

        2. Please write a letter to Ti Martin @ Commander's.
          She would absolutely want to know about your experience.

          I've not had a problem the last several meals I have had there.
          Hope it was just an off night.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Isabella

            We much prefer lunch to dinner at Commander's. We've been many times post K and have always had good food as well as service. Martinis, no wine. Our one post K dinner was about 2 weeks after they reopened. They were "off", as we surmised they might be this soon. We were anxoius to return and took a chance.

          2. have never been a fan of CP. have had similar dinner experiences there pre-K. most lunches were fine, though they were usually for group meetings/lunches.

            have also had horrible experiences at other Brennan's establishments; but will say when the management is called, they do try to make amends.

            1 Reply
            1. re: edible complex

              You mentioned "other Brennan's establishments." It's an easy mistake to make, since things have gotten really complicated.
              Commander's Palace has no affiliation with Brennan's Restaurant on Royal Street. The members of the extended Brennan family now comprise five separate and distinct groups of owners--the Dickie Brennan branch, the Mr. B's Branch, the Ralph Brennan branch, the Commander's Palace branch and the Brennan's on Royal Street branch. Whew!