The Restaurants We Can't Live Without
By Tom Fitzmorris. . . Revised June 2009
CBD: 300 Poydras Street. 504-595-3305. Map.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Sunday brunch.
AE DC DS MC V
WHY IT'S ESSENTIAL
Best cocktails in town, the result of an intensive program to raise cocktail standards with fresh juices, house-made mixers, and great care. The food is classy, with Commander's Palace touches of innovation in a more rustic Louisiana style.
WHY IT'S GOOD
As Commander's Palace races into the future with its cuisine, it leaves behind an amazing catalog of great but past ideas. The chefs here have used that inspiration to build the menu here. (The current one is Chris Lusk, who took awhile to come into his own but has arrived now.) The food is a touch on the rustic side, made with first-class ingredients. Cafe Adelaide does a brisk lunch business, but at dinner it's a good place to remember, because it usually has tables available. It's an excellent sleeper. They also serve the city's best hotel breakfast.
The Brennans of Commander's Palace opened this, the all-purpose restaurant of the Loew's Hotel, in 2004. It's named for Adelaide Brennan, one of the first generation of the Brennan restaurant family, who was legendary for her partying lifestyle. The Brennans have used this restaurant as a stepping stone for their up-and-coming chefs. Kevin Vizard was the opening chef; this was the only posting in his career where his food wasn't exciting.
An expansive pair of rooms off the hotels' lobby, with big windows and banquettes along one wall. The columns are painted with macro-faux wood grain, which you might like or not. The bar isn't big enough to hold all its after-work fans on a busy evening.
Coconut and curry shrimp.
Blue crab "pound cake."
Crispy oysters Rockefeller.
Louisiana charcuterie plate.
Shrimp and grits.
Corn-crusted redfish with crawfish macque choux.
Coriander pork tenderloin.
Grillades and grits (breakfast).
Lost bread (breakfast).
FOR BEST RESULTS
At breakfast, order from the menu instead of the buffet. If you're intrigued by the idea of having cocktails instead of wine through dinner, this is the place to do it.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The servers are well trained, but a little green. The management should revise the website's menus more often.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
When you own more than one restaurant and they're not clones of one another, there's a good chance that one of them will become a laboratory for the flagship. NOLA has always functioned that way for Emeril's local trio of eateries. This can result in some exciting dining, as chefs and dining room people can try concepts without risking a reputation.
Cafe Adelaide has become the proving ground for the Commander's Palace phalanx of the Brennan restaurant family. Sous chefs who showed promise at Commander's have become executive chefs at Cafe Adelaide. Danny Trace, who held that position from Katrina until last year, has since gone on to take over Commander's in Destin.
Now Chris Lusk is in the Adelaide slot, and although it took a few months for him to find his style, he very much has done so. My last two meals there have been the best I've had since the place opened.
The management is also trying new ideas elsewhere in the restaurant. The push to turn the Swizzle Stick Lounge into the city's most accomplished venue for mixology has been a great success. Now they're experimenting with a supper club concept, with pianist Harry Mayronne Jr. and singer Leah Chase (daughter of the famed restaurateur of the same name) performing a couple of nights a week. Evenings are the problem: the CBD has always had a touch time attracting dinner biz. The idea of turning the place into a party sounds good. Adelaide Brennan would have loved it.
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© 2009 Tom Fitzmorris. All rights reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org