I’ve enjoyed some of the best chef’s “tasting menus” you can find anywhere. My wife Lisa and I savored every morsel of a 12-course meal at Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Longest, my most consistent traveling companion and every bit, likely more, the connoisseur of fine food and I have enjoyed remarkable evenings at True in Chicago, Gary Danko in San Francisco, Binkley’s just outside of Phoenix, and our all-time personal favorite Addison in San Diego.
The ultimate culinary experience, however, should come in the best food city in the world, and for my money that’s New Orleans.
There’s no shortage of options in the Crescent City if you’re shopping for a unique dining experience, but for the very best, I would suggest the Chef’s Table at Commander’s Palace.
My wife Lisa and I recently enjoyed the one-of-a-kind experience with friends Casey and Jody Clark, also of Bruce, Mississippi.
Like us, they are regulars in New Orleans and Commanders.
The reservation requires almost a year of wait time, but it will be worth it. It also requires a party of four, no more, no less.
Let’s get into this memorable evening.
After snapping a quick picture of the four of us outside, we walked through the front door and were immediately ushered to our table in the middle of the kitchen where we could watch the fast-paced, yet very calm and controlled operation of this remarkable establishment.
I envisioned a franticness to the kitchen with lots of loud communication and constant rush, but far from it. There was a calm, almost serene efficiency to it. Almost surgical.
Seconds after we were seated, Argyle, our waiter for the evening and a chef himself, took our cocktail order. Two Bombay Sapphire and Tonics were delivered and this fabulous night was officially kicked off.
Chef Luke Hidalgo followed to introduce himself and share with us his plans for the evening. He explained he wouldn’t be serving us dishes off the menu, but his own creations made especially for this night, our night.
Soon after, the first course arrived – Crabmeat and Caviar with Cucumbers and Grapes. It was also paired with champagne, Drappier Brut. A quick clink of the glasses and our wait was finally over. The plates were clean and the glasses empty before we could blink.
That was followed by a Seafood Bisque with Plantain and Crawfish Escabeche. This was possibly the winner of the night. I could have eaten a giant bowl of the bisque and dipping the crisp plantain chip covered with Escabeche into the bisque was one of the most remarkable tastes ever. I mean ever!
That was served with a Terrane Pinot Grigio which balanced the bisque perfectly.
Next came Argentine Red Shrimp a la Plancha served with a glass of Do Ferreiro Albarino. The pan-fried shrimp was perfection and the accompanying Spanish wine was among my favorites of the night.
Seared Foie Gras with Italian Meringue may have been my favorite. Chef Hidalgo was quick to point out that Italina Meringue meant “fancy marshmallow” when he explained the dish to us. Foie Gras can be hit or miss with me, but this was a grand slam! It was served with Domaine La Tour Vielle Banyuls “Rimage,” – a fabulous French dessert wine.
Not to be outdone, the next round was a palate cleanser of Le Coupe du Milieu served with it’s own cocktail created by Chef Hidalgo – Bittered Lime Daiquiri. The drink consisted of Appleton white rum, lime juice, sugar and El Guapo “Love Potion No. 9” bitters.
The entree portion kicked in with a Roasted Cobia with White Asparagus served with a glass of Domaine Bachelet-Monnot Cassagne-Montrachet. The presentation was delicious by itself. I don’t know how to describe the cooking of this fish but perfection.
We broke things up with an Argyle-led tour of the Commander’s wine cellar, a look around the kitchen and a glimpse into the dessert room where one chef is tasked with producing an incredible number of the restaurant’s award-winning Bread Pudding Souffles non-stop.
We returned to our kitchen booth where the previous course of surf was followed with turf in the form of Roast Waygyu Beef Ribeye Steak with Sweet Potatoes. Hailing from the county that’s home to the Sweet Potato Capital of the World (Vardaman, MS), I couldn’t help but love this dish. The Waygyu melted in your mouth. The beef was accented by a glass of very smooth French wine, “La Grange de Lascaux.”
Next came the cheese course featuring: Saver de Maquis – a sheep’s milk cheese from the island of Corsica; Uma – a cheese made from cow’s milk from the Northwest; and Bethmel Chèvre – a mixed-milk cheese from the Pyrenees that was my personal favorite. This was delightfully accented by a cabernet Château Valentin, Haut-Médoc.
Last, but not least, the “Dessert Bomb!
That’s exactly what it was, all 8 desserts from the Commander’s kitchen served up to the four of us all at once.
I could have eaten them all, and we did all share a bite of each, but I’m forever grateful my friends allowed me to hog most of the Bread Pudding Souffle.
Throw in a glass of Black Muscat “Elysium” and the four of us were happier than anything ever seen on Bourbon Street.
Few things in life ever exceed expectations, but our Chef’s Table experience did exactly that. From our first walk through the door to the last step outside, smiles never left our faces. It was an enthralling evening that proved to me that Commander’s is worthy of my personal fandom. I’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of unforgettable nights in New Orleans, but it’s hard to imagine anything topping this.