Command Performance at Commander’s Palace in Las Vegas

Command Performance at Commander’s Palace in Las Vegas

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One of Mark Twain’s finest novels is “Life on The Mississippi", chronicling his younger days piloting — steamboatin’ on the Mighty Miss. Originally, Twain was on his way to the Amazon River to create a epic about riverboat life in Brazil, but obviously Emile Commander’s restaurant at the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street, in the Creole Garden District of New Orleans’ Vieux Càrre, or French Quarter, convinced him to stay.

Since the 1880s when Louisiana officially joined the Union, Commander’s Palace has been in the same location and still operating, serving such celebrated diners as Confederate President Jefferson Davis. But the locals still love their fine dining establishment as much as the tourists. The land it sits on at one time was part of the J.F.E Livaudois Plantation and the Faubourg of Lafayette. The plantation grew into becoming New Orleans, and by 1900 Commander’s Palace was attracting gourmands from all over the world.

During the Roaring Twenties the wild rivertown was known to be a little spicier, with riverboat captains frequenting the Prohibition (ahem . . . Bourbon please) restaurant, and even high society dining in the private salon upstairs (with separate entrance).

It took 125 years for Commander’s Palace to jump over the Rockies and land in Las Vegas, but it did, with a great location on the Strip in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, within the Desert Passage Shopping Mall.

In 1944, Frank and Elinor Moran bought Commander’s Palace, and carried on its tradition of excellence with an expanded menu, including many recipes still used today in both Commander locations.

In 1974, Ella, Dottie, Dick, and John Brenan supervised the restaurant and they gave the old landmark an overhaul with redesigned rooms, seating indoors that complemented the outdoors garden setting, all planned for a light, breezy ambiance.

The Las Vegas Commander’s Palace is trimmed in dark woods, and the entrance opens up into a room that is a little Arabesque in height and style and subtle lighting — well of course, you are at the Aladdin! Dining was certainly casual, and then I noticed the immense Persian rum hanging on the wall.

Crisp linens and quick service with intelligent wait staff makes this a happening winner. I couldn’t get in for Mother’s Day but the following Sunday was Jazz Brunch at noon (every Sunday is Jazz Brunch at noon).

Sharath, our captain, has an advanced degree in the Culinary Arts in Switzerland, and while traveling with his India ambassador father polished his food presentation skills as smooth as teak on a steamer deck.

From our gabled window perch the blue Nevada sky stretched to the mountains. So before I fork on over to tell you about the dining, let’s talk about Commander’s Palace Las Vegas awards:

Winner of Best Restaurant on the Strip
Las Vegas Life Epicurean Awards

Winner of Best Restaurant of the Year
Taste of Las Vegas

Winner of Best Service
Las Vegas Life Epicurean Awards

Winner of Best New Restaurant on the Strip
Las Vegas Life Epicurean Awards

Voted Best New Restaurant
Taste of L as Vegas

Voted Best New Restaurant in a Hotel
Las Vegas Review-Journal —
Best of Las Vegas Awards

Named one of the Top Casino Restaurants
Casino Player Magazine

Named one of the top Five Gourmet Restaurants
Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine

Host of one of the 2001 Chaine Des Rotisseurs Dinners

Exceptional Eats
Celebrated Living - American Airlines, Fall 2001

After a couple of Bourbons I felt more like sitting under a magnolia tree watching the cargo float down the lazy river. Of course the restaurant has a choice of non-alcoholic beverages, or try the eye openers — Commander’s Palace Bloody Mary or Champagne Mimosa.

All the appetizers are à la carte and all priced at $8.50 at the time of our dining experience (May, 2005), making it easy and inexpensive to try several. Jane and I decided to try the Turtle Soup Ali Sherry, now that turtles are being raised on farms, and the threatened species are not on the menu. But hey, you are in New Orleans (sort of — even though the pavement outside is starting to crack in the heat, we are chilled in style). I notice one of the soups is a 1-1-1 and found out it is a demitasse portion of three soups: Gumbo, Turtle, and the Soup du Jour. We passed on the Breakfast Parfait of fresh and sun-dried fruit, house-made granola and vanilla yogurt. I am certain that the French Quarter Beignets are the traditional bite-sized ones dusted with powdered sugar — accompanied by warm café au lait sauce. Then we were served up the Shrimp Remoulade, Creole seasoned Gulf shrimp tossed in spicy Louisiana remoulade sauce with salted lemon zest (an additional $2, but worth it.)

Jane had never tried alligator and I had not had it since dining at the award winning restaurant, "The Yearling", in Cross Creek, Florida where they shoot gators out the back door (okay, in season of course) and serve it on a plate chicken-like: “It taste’s just like chicken”. ( I am sure you have heard that one somewhere.) That is the way they serve it in some parts of the South and The Yearling won Five Golden Spoon Awards more than once to prove that this is the traditional tell-tale gator tail. But Commander’s Palace in Las Vegas pounds their gator into sub-consciousness and it is so tender and non-rubbery that there is no hint that it is gator at all — or chicken!

We wanted seafood, so we passed on many of the delicious sounding entrées, such as the Panfed Pork Chop Milanese-style, and the Onion Crusted Fried Chicken Cobb Salad. I can’t stomach bottom feeder fish so we passed on the Louisiana Pecan Crusted Catfish. BUT, our eyes did stop half way down the menu at Gulf Shrimp Creole — tender Gulf Shrimp pan seared and steamed in a full-flavored Creole-spiced (medium spicy) tomato ragout — served with Louisiana popcorn rice. BUT, not before the Brunch Special Appetizer of Louisiana Crawfish Bienville — Sautéed fresh Fleur de Lys crawfish tails, roasted mushrooms, and house-smoked Tasso, smothered in a brandied Gulf shrimp cream — topped with French bread crumbs (an additional $3).

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Kriss Hammond, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Read Jetsetters Magazine at

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Kriss Hammond, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at

Kriss Hammond