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Nov 1, 2011 09:59 PM

Day 2 - A Phoenician's Tour of NOLA (Antoine's Annex, Commander's Palace, K-Paul's)

Day 2 was a day of getting to know the French Quarter and J. and I started out just walking around and taking in the sights. We did want a small nosh as we were saving ourselves for our lunch at Commander's Palace.

As we ambled down Royal Street, we stumbled upon a little shop that looked like a patisserie and turned out to be Antoine's Annex. We walked in and were charmed. Everyone was dressed for Halloween and we had a nice chat with some of the staff before J. ordered a slice of Spinach and Andouille Quiche and a cup of coffee with chicory. I opted for a power breakfast of a Chocolate Eclair and a Diet Coke.

In minutes, we had our order and took a seat outside and enjoyed our meal. J's quiche was quite good, but said the cheese top was a bit unyielding to the fork. The flavors were well balanced and a nice mix. The coffee was great, but J. said he really couldn't compare this with other coffees because of the chicory, but said he enjoyed it.

My eclair was perfect. Soft, light, and filled with lots of custard filling and just enough chocolate on the top to round out the flavors. I was very pleased. The Diet Coke, as always, was ambrosial.

We toured the Quarter a bit more before returning to the hotel and dressing up for Commander's Palace. We made our way to the restaurant dressed in ties and sports jackets hoping to snag a table in the Garden Room. Alas, our fortunes were not with us as they told us the Garden Room was closed. Then, we were offered a table in the garden itself. Our fates had changed, we said yes and were taken to a table right in the middle of the beautiful garden. The perfect weather, the setting and the occasional autumn leaf falling to our table had us giddy.

Our server took our drink order and we couldn't pass up the $0.25 martinis. I opted for the Cosmopolitan and J. had the Commander's Martini featuring Blue Curacao. Heading off to get our drinks, we waited patiently when another server brought us water and garlic bread. The bread was rich, buttery and with a nice amount of garlic.

Our martinis were brought and smiles crossed our faces. J. loved the sweetness of his martini and I loved the cranberry edge to my Cosmo, which was perfect for the season. For a quarter, these martinis rocked.

Having had a sip and a chance to review the menus, we placed our order. J. had the Shrimp and Tasso for a starter followed by the Seafood Courtboullion. I decided on the Autumn Duck Confit Salad and the Couchon de Lait for my main. We also ordered two desserts: the famed Bread Pudding Souffle and the Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake special.

We polished off our martinis and order round two. This time, J. had the Melon Martini and I had a traditional gin martini. Both were excellent. (Humorously enough, the Diet Coke I ordered cost more than the four martinis we'd had.)

Our starters arrived and my Autumn Duck Confit Salad was perfect. Lots of shredded duck meat on a bed of greens with bits of Blue Cheese and candied pecans was a wonderful start. J. was floored by the Shrimp and Tasso. It was spicy, filling and delicious. J. proclaimed it one of the best dishes he had ever had. He said the combination of the shrimp, pork and sauce made it "luxurious."

Our entrees arrived about 10 minutes after we finished our appetizers and I was not disappointed with my Couchon de Lait. It was a huge symphony of flavors from the Abita beer, the chow chow, the pickled okra, the boudin and the lovely demiglace on top. Incredible. J. was in heaven with the Seafood Courtboullion featuring sheepshead fish, shrimp and oysters. It had a little kick and was almost like a stew and was plentiful.

We finished our meals and waited for our desserts. When they arrived, I was hit with the aroma of gingerbread. We dove into the sweets and it was wonderful. The Bread Pudding Souffle was towering over the table and our waiter punched a hole in the top of the souffle with a spoon and generously poured in copious amounts of Whiskey Cream. Mercy! We loved all of it. It was a very unique preparation and one that we thoroughly enjoyed. That being said, the pumpkin and gingerbread cake really was a home run for me. The cake had plenty of ginger and pumpkin and a great molasses note. The accompanying Chai Tea Ice Cream was a perfect match.

After paying the bill we took a brief walk through the Lafayette Cemetery and then headed back to the hotel. It was an exceptional lunch and a great Halloween treat.

That night, we headed to K-Paul's. We knew that Paul's cuisine is no longer the cutting edge it had been in decades past, but we wanted to experience it. We arrived and were taken to a table on the balcony overlooking Chartres Street. It was gorgeous and the crescent moon and costumed denizens of the Quarter made it that much better.

We placed our drink order of a Sidecar for me and a Pineapple Upside Down Cake Martini for J. We also gave our dinner order. J. had the Jumpin' Crabfingers to start, followed a House Salad with Danish Bleu Cheese dressing and then the Seafood Atchafalaya. I decided on the Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade, the Roasted Pear Salad, and the Blackened Prime Rib.

Our drinks arrived and J's Pineapple Upside Down Cake Martini tasted just like it sounded. It was made from a mixture of Stoli Vanila, Frangelico and pineapple juice, and it really did have the exact taste of a slice of the famous cake. My Sidecar was delicious with its sugar-frosted rim and the nice pungent kick from the lemon juice. We were also brought a bread basket featuring yeast rolls, jalapeno pepper buns, corn muffins, and Black Strap Molasses muffins. All were very good, but the molasses muffins stole the show.

Our salads arrived and I mentioned to J. that this was odd since I have never had my salad before my appetizer, but we shrugged it off. My Roasted Pear Salad was one of the best salads I have had in a very long time. Thick, meaty slices of pear were layered on a bed of greens with bleu cheese crumbles and toasted pecans, all dressed with a lovely Honey-lime vinaigrette. It was a brilliant concoction. J's salad was a simple garden salad mix, but the Danish Bleu Cheese dressing was out of this world. We were mopping up the remains of the dressing with the yeast rolls.

Next out of the kitchen were our appetizers served with an apology from our server for serving them after the salad. J's Crabfingers were little claws battered and deep fried and served with a spicy dipping sauce. They were meaty and eating them was like eating an artichoke leaf. A very different type of appetizer. My Fried Green Tomatoes featured two thick slices of green tomato with a scoop of shrimp remoulade sandwiches in between. Excellent on all counts. It was a really nice presentation.

Our mains arrived and the portion size was substantial. J. loved the bountiful seafood in his Atchafalaya. The sauce was smooth and tasty and he said the seafood was perfectly cooked, as was the accompanying dirty rice. It was also served with some steamed broccoli. My blackened prime rib had great flavor, but the temperature should have been higher. It was very warm and should have been hot. I deduced that the issue was that the plate they used to serve my meal was room temperature. A warmed plate would have done wonders. The Green Beans that were served with the meat were good. The mashed potatoes, on the other had, were wonderful. Creamy and buttery, I was very pleased with them.

We were stuffed, so we passed on dessert. We enjoyed K-Paul's but it was a notch or two below Emeril's and several notches below Commander's Palace.

After relaxing a bit, we headed to Bourbon Street for the Halloween madness and had a great time. We ended up with lots of beads. How we got them, though, is ... well... what happens on Bourbon Street stays on Bourbon Street.

Commander's Palace Restaurant
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

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  1. Omigosh, Seth, I absolutely enjoyed your descriptions of all the wonderful food you and J had the great fortune to consume while you were in NOLA. Truly made my mouth water! Thanks for the postings.

    1. WOW, lovely, just lovely write up. I can hardly wait till I'm back in NOLA next week. I was going to pass up Commander's Palace, but you recreated your experience (and mine too last time I was there), that I'm reconsidering going again this year. Thanks for posting!!

      Commander's Palace Restaurant
      1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

      1. really great food report, am throughly enjoying it.

        1. Sorry to hear that K-Paul's was not up to snuff. It has been so long, since we have dined there, and I am only left with very foggy memories. Still, at their level, they should get the "little things" correct, and when they do not, it shows.

          Even so, sounds like you are having fun. Keep that up!


          6 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            I don’t think she implied that it wasn’t up to snuff. I just think it paled in comparison to two of the best restaurants in the city. It always tickles me that Chowhounders recommend Galatoire’s over Commander’s. Not even close, in my opinion. Galatoire’s is a fun place, but the food and the service is nowhere near as good as Commander’s.

            Galatoire's Restaurant
            209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

            1. re: shanefink

              Now, I might have missed Seth's points, but he did not seem to have been highly impressed, and that is a shame. Seth had been expecting more, and "more" did not come. That saddens me, as I have always enjoyed the food of Chef Prudhomme, though have not dined there in some years.

              As for CP's vs Galatoire's, I have the absolute opposite perspective, that you do. Mine is built from much personal experience, and then trips back to confirm. On each trip, there has been confirmation.

              Though CP's was once our "go-to" fine dining destination, and while we lived in NOLA (wife was a native, so I am only talking of the 10 years, that we were married, and living there), it was the location of all of her birthday dinners. When we moved away, we continued to journey to NOLA, as family still lives there. We did her birthdays there, though not every year, at that time.

              Then things changed, and in some big ways. All was not as it once was, and at many levels. Over some years, we attended several culinary events there, had some dinners there, and even tried to celebrate a few birthdays, when we flew in.

              We were recently there, hosting a dinner for about 10 hospital administrators, and I was hoping for the best, especially as many on CH were singing the praises. Well, it was "second-tier," at the very best. To me, the "glory days" are past.

              I am not saying that they are "off my list," as things could well change for the better, but they are not on the first page of my list - not any more.

              Now, Galatoire's has always come through for me, and that goes back to when I was about 8 years old. I, or we, have dined there from the 1950's, and have never had anything BUT an excellent meal, and excellent experience. Do you see why I rate them higher?

              At one time (going back to my youth), Antoine's was also extremely good. I, or we, dined there for many decades, and enjoyed each meal. Then, they slipped, and in many big ways. I now hear that things have changed, and that I should try them again.

              I wish the best for both CP's, and Antoine's, since they are so very heavily featured in my memories. Still, until they come through, I hold my reservations (and not the one that you make on OpenTable).

              I am so glad that you enjoy CP's more that Galatoire's. Each person has their own tastes, and that is what makes the world go around. Just because I disagree with you, does not make you wrong. OTOH, because you disagree with me, does not make me wrong. Different tastes and for different folk - that's all.

              As I still think of NOLA as my "home town," though I was born about 75 miles away, and as I love the cuisine of the City, I am always saddened, when restaurants do not fulfill diner's expectations. From another board, I know Seth's level of culinary expertise. He always gives an objective review, and does not focus on little aspects of a meal - only the bigger ones. If he writes that things did not meet, or exceed, his expectations, I listen carefully.

              Just my thoughts,


              Galatoire's Restaurant
              209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I just find the food at Galatoire’s to be average, but consitently average. And the service gaps are part of the charm. The place is fun, don’t get me wrong, but Commander’s has the ability to wow. Their menu is more innovative and the food is usually outstanding. I think part of the problem is that they set the bar so high “back in the day” that you’ve come to expect that excellence all the time and they can’t always deliver. One reason, I think, is that they have a lot of employee turnover. These days, there’s a thousand other places service industry folks can work. They didn’t have that kind of competition (especially Uptown) ten or twenty years ago. But hey, Bret Anderson left them out of the Top 10 this year, so who am I to disagree.

                Galatoire's Restaurant
                209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

                1. re: shanefink

                  Actually, my experiences have been diametrically opposed to yours, but then that is what makes "life go 'round."


                1. re: Seth Chadwick


                  I alluded to such, though that might have been missed?

                  Enjoy, and glad that you folk are back home safely!


                  PS -Also, very glad that you finally got to NOLA - you deserve it. Also, check your In-Box - you've "got mail."