Commander's Palace Reopens
Despite renovation work going on until practically the last minute, Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) reopened Oct. 1, serving Sunday brunch as its first meal back in business 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. The sprawling building, which has been a restaurant for 126 years, has been almost completely rebuilt in a multi-million-dollar renovation that includes a new kitchen and a new look for the dining rooms. For instance, the ground floor dining room, previously dark mahogany, is now much lighter oak with gold and lavender highlights. The menu also has been significantly reworked, with many new dishes joining some of the restaurant's most popular items. Chef Tory McPhail is still in charge of the kitchen at Commander's, which also retained its pre-storm crew of sous chefs, says co-owner Lally Brennan. The restaurant was able to keep or hire back its managers and about half of the wait staff. Commander's Palace is open for lunch on weekdays, dinner nightly and brunch Saturdays and Sundays.
New Chef at New Orleans Grill
Across town, things are also getting rolling again at the New Orleans Grill, the main restaurant of the Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 523-6000; www.windsorcourthotel.com). The hotel hired Mike Collins as executive chef in May to replace Jonathan Wright, who did not return after Katrina. Collins is a California native who previously held executive sous chef positions at a number of luxury hotels around the country. He spent his first summer in New Orleans assembling a new culinary team for the restaurant and designing a new menu, which now includes dishes like butter-crusted Chilean sea bass with Gulf shrimp in coconut curry broth and American Kobe beef short ribs with cinnamon and star anise essence. The a la carte dinner menu is served daily. The restaurant no longer requires ties for men at dinner, though jackets are requested.
Green Plates, White Chocolate
The latest guest chef cooking up "green plate special" lunches at Tuesday's Uptown edition of the Crescent City Farmers Market (200 Broadway, www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org) is Darin Nesbit, chef at Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661; www.palacecafe.com). Each Tuesday through October, he will serve meals that can be eaten at the market or taken home, with dishes such as pumpkin bisque with crabmeat and spiced seeds, bratwurst po-boys and white chocolate bread pudding, a specialty of Palace Café.
Tujague's (823 Decatur St., 525-8676; www.tujaguesrestaurant.com) celebrates its 150-year anniversary this year and in commemoration is serving a champagne and juice cocktail called the "TuJack's mimosa" for $1.50 (as in 150 cents) at its bar. Tujague's is the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans, opening 16 years after Antoine's 1840 debut.