Short Trip Report
My wife, 10yo son and I go away every Thanksgiving week to visit another city and avoid the extended family gathering back home. This year, we decided on the Gulf Coast.
We arrived into New Orleans Saturday morning on direct flight from Washington DC. Checked into the Ritz, and immediately walked over to Galatoire's for lunch. Very, very enjoyable and a wonderful introduction to the city. We had a great waitress who was charming and helpful. Best dishes included Shrimp Remoulade (better than we thought this dish could be), Salad with Creole Mustard Vinagrette (a surprising treat), Grilled Pompano (probably the weakest dish as we ordered it unadorned for my son), Speckled Trout Almondine (amazingly light coating and cooking), and the absolute standout....Redfish Yvonne with artichokes, mushrooms and crabmeat.
That afternoon we rode the streetcar out to the westend, walked Magazine Street, and visited the WWII Museum.
Saturday night we went to Cochon. Great table the back by the kitchen. Having done a little research, we ordered 9 of the small plates. The highlights were the Crabmeat Salad (nice and light), Fried Rabbit Livers (probably the best dish), Roasted Oysters (best rendition of this dish we've had), Charcuterie Platter, Fried Boudin Balls (great), Shaved Pigs Head, Mushroom Salad, and Smothered Greens. Swift service. No disappointments. And frankly, a very affordable dinner.
Sunday morning was brunch at Commanders Palace. Where do i start! First, all of you on this board owe visitors a stern word of caution about this place. I had made the reservation probably 3 months in advance, and requested the "Patio Room". We arrived, precisely on time, my son and I dressed in sportcoats and a skirt for my wife. We were led through the dining room, up the steps, and offered the table immediately at the top, in a small, plain room, clearly used for over-flow. I expressed my unhappiness, and a manager very professionally said two other tables were available, one in the Dining Room and one in the Patio Room! Well come on...why sentance me to Siberia in the first place. Then it gets worse. The manager says he will forward our drink order. No drinks. Long wait. I ask for the drinks. No clue. Long wait. Don't get me wrong, the waiter and staff are all smiles and running around energetically, they just can't seem to find me a Bloody Mary. It finally comes, and I wish it hadn't. Dull, metalic, underseasoned, barely drinkable. I order a bottle of white wine. And wait. And wait. It comes, but it is room temperature. Not chilled a bit. I ask for an ice bucket, and they have to go get one, because I guess they are surprised I would want one? We order lunch. The first course arrives in minutes. Gumbo for me. Awful. I mean awful. Dark, dark, dark brown and thick as school paste and not at all warm. It does have some shredded pork in it, but nothing else. Of the maybe 6 gumbos I had that week, this is the worst. I can't finish it. Wife orders the Shrimp Remoulade, remembering Galatoire's, and she regrets it. Shrimp are small and the dish has none of the many wonderful flavors of yesterday. Son starts with the Commander's Salad. Now I know no one professes this to be a specialty, but come on! His elementary school cafeteria wouldn't serve this limp disaster. And it is this total lack of pride in the food coming out of the kitchen that disappoints me so much. And so now we wait again for our next course. Still hungry by the way. And wait. And wait. Entrees arrive and they are worse. My Shrimp Creole has so much agar/corn starch in it that it has a thick film crusted over the top from sitting out. It was so pastey, I could cut it with a knife. Son's Beef Tornados look nice, but are as dry as cardboard without a hint of juiciness. Wife's Quail is way, way, way over cooked (tasted steamed, not roastd), and the stuffing is a completely homogeneous mass of damp bread. I am certain that nothing served to us that day was cooked that day. the sauces, the quail and even the steak had been made days or even weeks ago and then rewarmed for hours that morning. I wouldn't be surprised if it had been made in a warehouse hours away and trucked in. Nothing was at all worthy of a singe word of praise So now more than 2 hours later, we asked for our desserts, which we had pre-ordered and paid for. Thirty minutes later, no desserts. When asked, Waiter says, "Sir, I put the order in with the kitchen in a timely manner." What does that mean? It' takes 30 minutes to cut a piece of pie and put a scoop of ice cream on it? We pay the bill ($269 with a way overly-generous tip) and walk out in disgust without dessert. This place is a factory, not a restaurant. We are crushed that have wasted our only Sunday brunch in NOLA on this place, when there were so many other places that we considered.
That afternoon we took a cruise down the Mississippi. It was a great sunny day, and despite my grumblings, it worked out fine.
We tried to stop at Acme for some raw oysters, but again the line was down the block. We walked over to Felix, and we sure are glad we did. Plenty of room at th bar. Three dozen big, plump, briny oysters and three beers in about 20 minutes! And cheap! I think they were $12/dozen and beers were $3? I pay $24 - $26 in DC plus $7-8 for a beer.
Sunday night was August. Wow! We had a wonderful evening. Great table in the corner. Great service. Great wine list. And the food was stunning. Starters included a perfect Shrimp Bisque and a sinful Gnocchi with Foie Gras. My Trout with Hollandaise Foam was delicious. Son's Sugar and Spice Duck was out of this world. And Wife's Redfish in Bullion was delicate and delightful. Dessert was a beautifully presented composition of Bananas and Cake and Candy and was very well liked.
After four days at the Grand Hotel in Alabama, we drove back to New Orleans to fly home. We stopped at Harbor by the airport for lunch. The place was hopping. We had more raw oysters, fried calamari, gumbo, shrimp po boy, and roast beef po boy. The LSU game was on tv. I would really liked this to have been the best meal we had, and we really liked the place, but frankly, the food was not very good. Oysters small and dirty, calamarie overcooked, and roast beef and gravy too salty and canned tasting. But we were warmly welcomed and well served and enjoyed our lunch none-the-less.
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130
Gulf Coast Restaurants
1200 S Clearview Pkwy, New Orleans, LA 70123
Your review of CP was refreshing, and I'm not be sarcastic. Even the best restaurants screw up it is just unfortunate when it happens to you. You play the odds and you just happened to be in line for the rare disappointment. But I have to admit I've never been to a good restaurant where everything went wrong.
I think your Acme/Felix experience is typical and I choose the one that doesn't have a line and dine happily.
When you go to a place like the Harbor you do take your chances. Stingray's or Kenner Seafood, both also near the airport, might have given you a better chance at the same type cuisine.
While it is not completly this board, tell us about your stay at the Grand. I haven't been there since before the storm and have been thinking about making it a priority.
Kenner Seafood Restaurant
Kenner, LA, Kenner, LA
great report. thank you for the detail. so sad about commander's palace. what a disappointment for you and your family.
I had the pleasure of eating the rabbit livers at Cochon the other day and agree - the best thing I ate there. The pepper jelly along with the parsley and mint really took it out of the park.
My sister asked us to visit NO for an extended weekend a couple of weeks ago, my first time.
The city really put its hooks into me...
The lineups to Acme drove us to Felix as well. I'm used to Canadian maritime oysters like malpeque and caraquet. Those Louisiana oysters are meatier and brinier, very delicious. I like raw oysters as much as the next guy, but we tried them grilled for the first time at Felix - what a discovery! We returned the next day just for that, and yes, cheap!
Commanders Palace has been on my to-do list for about 15 years, ever since I bought a CP cookbook. However, when the chips were down, with only 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners, and in-betweens to choose from, Commanders was sadly dropped. It was particularly agonizing as we walked past the venerable instititution while strolling through the Garden District. It may have been an off-day at the restaurant, but if anything at all, your report helped ease the sting of our decision.