Explore New Orleans

NOLA Noshing: Off-Menu in Private

Five Crescent City chef's tables worth pulling a chair up to.

Omakase (oh-mah-kah-say) is the Japanese word for “I’ll leave it to you” or, in dining parlance, “chef’s choice.” Part of the culinary current, fine-dining restaurants of all stripes have co-opted the spirit of omakase with creative multicourse menus served in private rooms, cordoned-off tables and at kitchen counters. The beauty of these dining experiences is that they can be tailored to season, taste, even guests’ dietary needs, for a truly personalized meal.

The Chef’s Table at Commander’s Palace, a four-top banquette located smack inside the kitchen, is an exciting experience, full of people, bustle, energy and, of course, amazing food and drink. Chef Tory McPhail chats with diners ahead of time so he and his team can create a pitch-perfect, specialized and thoughtful menu. Cocktail and wine pairings can also be arranged, and are well worth the cost.

(©Commander's Palace)
You can't get much closer to the action than at the in-kitchen table at Commander's Palace. (©Commander's Palace)

John Besh’s Restaurant August offers the Chef’s Tasting Room, a private dining space for up to 12 people and anywhere from a four to seven-course menu, with the option to customize upwards of 12 courses. August chefs put together clever Tasting Room menus every several weeks, based on what is fresh, seasonal and locally available. Call a week or two in advance, decide how many courses and choose dishes culled from a broad array of selections; meals may be further tailored based on dietary restrictions. With two private servers, an onsite chef catering to whims and a sommelier/drinks specialist to coordinate pairings, this is nothing short of dining perfection.

(©Restaurant August)
Restaurant August chef John Besh in his "home" kitchen on his PBS cooking series. (©Restaurant August)

The 16 open-kitchen seats at Square Root are available Tuesday through Saturday. The $150-per-person price tag means 10 to 12 courses of chef Phillip Lopez’s masterful modern dishes. The experience is jaw-dropping and singular; no expense is spared on ingredients. Stunning handcrafted dishware, coordinating utensils, glassware and cool service highlight food that can be customized (with three days advance notice) for those with special diets. Prepare to be wowed, surprised and happily full.

(©Square Root)
Natural materials and floor-to-ceiling windows highlight the main attraction at Square Root—chef Phillip Lopez's culinary genius. (©Square Root)

Emeril’s and NOLA both have food bars facing busy working kitchens that are available during regular lunch and dinner hours. The third Thursday evening of each month (Sept. 17) Emeril’s chef David Slater serves up a five-course “Omagasse” tasting menu with creative takes on wherever is fresh and of-the-moment.

A seat at Emeril's food bar offers dinner ... and show. (©Emeril's)

For exceptionally elegant dining in New Orleans, make your choice chef’s choice, and say omakase.