ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
If it seems to you that a lot of new restaurants have been opening in hotels in recent years, you’re right. Here’s the equation: a hotel doesn’t really want to run its own restaurant, because it’s well known that hotel restaurants are almost always boring. But if a hotel cuts a deal with a well-known restaurant, they avoid this stigma. And, with luck, you and I get a beautiful, good restaurant where there might otherwise be none. Cafe Adelaide is a fine example of this. The tastemakers are Ti Martin and Lally Brennan, whose main restaurant is Commander’s Palace–a very powerful connection. Cafe Adelaide, like most Brennan restaurants, took a long time to figure out its personality. Now that it has, we have a terrific bistro kitchen with a menu comfortably far back of the cutting edge. Its menu pricing is extraordinarily attractive–particularly in the table d’hote lunches and dinners.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The dining room of the Loews Hotel is a kicky, casual branch of Commander’s Palace, with the service standards of the mother ship and an accessible, interesting menu. A visit here begins with one of the best bars town, with an imaginative program of creating new and old cocktails with fresh juices, house-made mixers, and great care. The food is more rustic than at Commander’s, with ingredients and techniques that have a homestyle quality. Cafe Adelaide does a brisk lunch business, but at dinner it’s a good place to remember, because it usually has tables available.
As Commander’s Palace races into the future with its cuisine, it leaves behind an amazing catalog of great but past ideas. Current chef Carl Schaubhut cooks in a way that reminds me of some of the stuff Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced to Commander’s menu in the late 1970s. The flavors are big, with crusty textures, smoky and peppery flavors where appropriate, and freshness coming at you all around. In recent times, the chef has taken a shine to the flavors of Mexico, which crop up in a number of current dishes. Also here: the best hotel breakfast in town, with fantastic beignets, fancy egg dishes, and great lost bread. (Wish they’d bring grillades and grits back.)
Cafe Adelaide opened in 2004. It’s named for Adelaide Brennan, she of the first generation of the Brennan restaurant family. She was legendary for her celebratory approach to life, and her familiarity with everybody of importance in New Orleans. The perfect host. Among its quotidian functions, Cafe Adelade also serves as a stepping stone for personnel whose next move is often to Commander’s.
An expansive pair of rooms off the hotels’ lobby, with big windows and banquettes along one wall. The big bar isn’t quite big enough to hold all its after-work fans on a busy evening. The restaurant backs up into the Italian Piazza, which can be booked as a private-party venue.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Duck ham, goat cheese, pickled chiles, sweet green tomato jam
Shrimp remoulade panzanella salad
Masa crusted gulf oyster “tamale,” cochon de lait grits
Commander’s turtle soup
Strawberry salad, blue cheese, spinach, arugula, spiced pecans,
New Orleans East style barbecue shrimp, crab boil kimchi, charred chilis, pork belly, stone ground grits
Black skillet seared redfish, blue crab, asparagus, sweet corn, Creole tomatoes, Israeli couscous, red chile-shellfish butter
Absinthe-barbecue double-cut pork chop, pickled fennel, shaved mirliton
Green chile glazed Scottish salmon, spaghetti squash, shiitake mushrooms, minted pea puree
Pepper jelly glazed brussels sprouts
Bananas Foster sundae
Peanut butter-stuffed chocolate cake
Creole cream cheese cheesecake, spiced steen’s cane syrup, seasonal fruit
FOR BEST RESULTS
The dinner menu has two attractively-priced (high $30s-mid $40s), three-course table d’hote packages that include the restaurant’s better dishes. The bar has an excellent assortment of appetizers, from which one can easily extract a satisfying meal to go with the first-class cocktails.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The servers are well trained, but a little green. The management should revise the website’s menus more often. Although it’s a clever and good dish, there’s something about the presence of a corn dog on the menu that strikes me as inappropriate. (This might be explained by my overly formal preferences.)
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Live music some nights
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- Reservations honored promptly
The dining room of the Loews Hotel is a kicky, casual branch of Commander’s Palace, with the service standards of the mother ship and an accessible, interesting menu. ¶ A visit here begins with one of the best bars town, with an imaginative program of creating new and old cocktails with fresh juices, house-made mixers, and great care. ¶ The food is more rustic than at Commander’s, with ingredients and techniques that have a homestyle quality. Cafe Adelaide does a brisk lunch business, but at dinner it’s a good place to remember, because it usually has tables available. More to come. . .