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Aug 26, 2010 08:04 AM

Tory McPhail (from Commander's) is cooking my supper tonight at the Bright Star. You coming?

We *love* Commander's Palace - and have had reservations for two or three weeks now at the Bright Star because they're having their 21st Annual 'Taste of New Orleans' event beginning tonight and going through Saturday evening. Anyone else going?

There's an article about it here in the B'ham News.

Bright Star Restaurant
304 19th St N, Bessemer, AL 35020

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  1. Any idea as to pricing? I did not see it on the special menu.

    What do you think of Veranda with Robey who was McPhail's sous chef at Commander's for years? Robey's sous Hansell also worked there. I have only tried Veranda for their soft shell crawfish, which were great.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Dax

      No idea about the cost. I'll report back tonight if it's not too late.

      I am Tom Robey's #1 fan.

      My husband and I had supper there just last week. Veranda has been my favorite place in town since he got here (used to be followed by Hot & Hot, which has dropped further since it seems Chris is so busy with other endeavors. Highlands is my second now.).

      We had soft-shell crawfish for an appetizer along with a crab and corn savory beignet. My entree was the Fudge Farms pork tenderloin and my husband had steak (I don't remember the cut). Dessert was a cornmeal peach cake, and a peanut butter / chocolate concoction. Pic below.

      Can't even *say* how good that all was. Veranda does a great steak.

      And I'd put the pork tenderloin up against any dish in town. It is incredible.

      Did you know that the dining room manager, Stan Reynolds, also came from Commander's? He's fantastic too.

      The Brennan family is raising them right.

      1. re: deepfriedkudzu

        I went to Veranda for brunch on Sunday. I had the beignets and the peanut butter pie you mentioned among other things...I've been thinking about those beignets EVERY DAY since then.

          1. re: curej

            We had dinner there tonight. Bummer. What a mess. That's all I'm going to say.

            1. re: curej

              At Bright Star, not Veranda, right? Please expound.

              Bright Star Restaurant
              304 19th St N, Bessemer, AL 35020

              1. re: curej

                Dude, you can't make a comment like that and not elaborate. What happened?

                1. re: sheilal

                  Sorry. You are correct, sheilal. Not cool of me to do that.

                  Ok. First I need concede that the greatest source of disappointment was the setting/atmosphere. However, the food was really not too exciting, either. See details below.

                  We went to Bright Star last night for the Taste of New Orleans. We were seated in a very crowded room, nearly elbow to elbow with the diners next to us. There were fewer "Tory McPhail" choices on the menu than I anticipated, but that is probably my fault for not knowing this before we arrived.

                  Our food was honestly only passable. We got the short ribs ($33) for our entree and the fried green tomatoes and shrimp as our appetizer. The appetizer was pretty fair, though at least one of the tomatoes was too hard/raw. The short ribs came out barely warm (I do not exaggerate), but were very tasty. There were two wedges of boneless meat, (a pretty modest serving) on a bed of boudin.

                  The atmosphere was abysmal. There was constant noise and clatter. We were about 5 feet from a busser who felt it necessary to make as much noise as possible dropping glasses and plates into a tub right by us. I had the pleasure of seeing a pile of dirty dishes right in front of me for the entire meal. The waitstaff were talking loudly to each other and occasionally arguing. At one point one of the waitresses, pointing out a table to another waitress, literally stuck her arm right over/across the small table next to us where a man was eating solo. If I was him, she would have gotten a piece of my mind. He was a more gracious soul. These have to be the worst-trained waitstaff I've ever encountered. We couldn't wait to get out of the place. I hope this place isn't always like this (it can't be, to have survived this long). I suppose that the chaos tonight was due to the special event. But I certainly have no desire to ever go back.

                  Bright Star Restaurant
                  304 19th St N, Bessemer, AL 35020

                      1. re: curej

                        The menu opened with Bright Star dishes on the left, and Commander's Palace dishes on the right.

                        Bright Star dishes were:
                        Crab Claws
                        Shrimp Cocktail
                        Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp

                        Traditional Greek Salad

                        Snapper Greek Style
                        Beef Tenderloin Greek Style
                        Greek Style Chicken
                        Snapper Almondine (which should have been spelled 'amandine')

                        Pineapple Cheese Pie
                        Peanut Butter Pie
                        Chocolate Almond Pie

                        I'll make a new post with the Commander's Palace dishes, next.

                        Bright Star Restaurant
                        304 19th St N, Bessemer, AL 35020

                        1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                          Almondine is actually correct on an American menu, especially in the South where it is a common preparation for fish. and green beans :)
                          Wikipedia states,
                          "Amandine is a culinary term indicating a garnish of almonds. Although a French term, if in American cooking, it is correctly called "almondine", referencing the use of almonds."

                        2. re: curej

                          Commander's Palace dishes were (this is slightly different from what's on the website, and I'll put prices here since there was an inquiry):

                          Snapping Turtle Soup (spiked w/ aged sherry) $8
                          Commander's Crisp Romaine Salad $8.50
                          Braised Duck and Foie Gras Po Boy $13

                          Grilled Crawfish & Alligator Grillades $32
                          Prime Black Angus Beef Short Rib $33
                          Pecan Crusted Redfish $34

                          Honey Roasted Peach Cobbler $8.50

                          Next post: the experience (I'm just trying to keep this from getting to be too big).

                          1. re: curej

                            We arrived at 8p sharp, when our reservation was listed. We had to wait approximately ten minutes to be taken back to our table, which was in the Dixie Room. Have to say, that was a let-down as we know Jimmy (although...all the regulars know & are friends with Jimmy and someone has to take the less-than-stellar tables, right? so...) and we were placed in what had to be one of the worst tables in the room, right in the middle, as Curej also described with his experience was within very short distance of two other tables.

                            Being that the menu had straightforward choices between Bright Star dishes and Commander's, we stuck with Commander's with the exception of my husband's dessert. Simply, if we were coming to eat Bright Star food, we'd have been there on any other night of the week.

                            Well, I really didn't mind about the seating arrangement because I was just tickled that Tory McPhail was here rather than us driving to New Orleans. I do have to say here that nothing beats the overall Commander's experience - that is, the dining rooms there are lovely, the service is incredibly attentive, everyone is super-professional.

                            I'm accustomed to the waitstaff at Bright Star too, so having a waitress that was a bit 'too' familiar is fine with me there whereas it would have been off-putting at Commander's. The gentlemen that come around to clear the tables are too loud, and the servers are very chatty. Is just a thing there. I wasn't expecting anything else from this experience. If you've been to the Bright Star, you know this is just how it is; it's the culture of the place.

                            Oh - I do have to mention that they had a musician, a gentleman who played both saxophone and clarinet, and he strolled the rooms taking requests. Nice.

                            Back to the food.

                            I started with the 'braised duck and foie gras po boy' and that was very good. I will say that it was only warm, not hot, when it arrived and I think the difference in temperature would have made it *so* much better.

                            My husband began with the snapping turtle soup and that was **amazing**. I always order turtle soup almost any place it is offered and this was the best I have ever had, including at Commander's in New Orleans.

                            My entree was the 'grilled crawfish & alligator grillades' which was crazy-good. It came out fresh, hot, flavorful. Terrific.

                            My husband had the pecan crusted redfish which was a bit less 'crusted' than you may expect but it was also very impressive.

                            Dessert for my husband was peanut butter pie from the Bright Star menu as that's just his favorite, and I stuck with the Commander's menu and had the honey roasted peach cobbler which was just fine (it was probably better than fine but I was so full by that time...).

                            Overall, yes, the atmosphere could have been a million times better (go in expecting the usual Bright Star experience) but the food that we had from Chef Tory - who greeted us, which was nice - was worth every penny.

                            A pic below.

                            Bright Star Restaurant
                            304 19th St N, Bessemer, AL 35020