Bayona | Restaurant | Susan Spicer | French Quarter | New Orleans Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Bayona HeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
New Orleans
Open: Lunch Wed - Sat, dinner Mon - Sat
Price: Expensive

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +1 504 525 4455
Address: 430 Dauphine Street
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112
Country: United States
Food Style: Modern American

Bayona is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans for the food obsessed. It is not the grandest dining experience in the city, but who cares. The cottage is charming and the food is very, very good.
New Orleans is a difficult town to get to know. Food critics flying in for a three day visit will inevitably write a superficial and misleading account of this complex melting pot. They will be taken to the grand Creole restaurants such as Galatoire's and Brennans and Arnauds. They will dabble in 'modern' Cajun cooking at K-Paul's Kitchen and they will praise the truly awful coffee, the sloppy service, the grubby tables and the reasonable beignets at Café du Monde. They will do this because they have to get a story.
But New Orleans doesn't reveal its secrets easily. You have to be there for a long time to work out what is real food and what is rubbish dished out to the tourists and food writers.
Three places in the city seem to rise above this categorisation. Commanders Palace deserves its reputation as a great restaurant and a place where you can have a very good food experience. Lilette serves beautifully cooked meals based on the freshest possible ingredients. The other place that seems to float above the pack is Bayona. This is a very good restaurant serving very good food.
While the service is not engaging, it is reasonable. The wine list is very good, the surroundings are pleasant and the food is clever.
We went back six times to make sure that we were going to be accurate in our descriptions of this local treasure!
We want to first of all put it in perspective. It is one of the best food experience in New Orleans for those who value food above dining. But where does it sit on a national or world scale?
Does it rank alongside the French Laundry or Chez Panisse as a food experience - not quite. Is it up there with the best of New York, Chicago or San Francisco? No!
But it is a very good restaurant.
So what did we like about it? One dish stands out as a perfect combination of textures, flavours and presentation. It is a memorable dish. Seared sea scallops sat on carrot and cardamom cream and were accompanied by a very crisp onion and carrot bajji (bhaji) and a sesame chutney. It looked great on the plate and it tasted wonderful. The softness of the scallops was offset by the crunch of the bajji. The delicacy of the scallops was counterpointed by the hit of the depth of flavour of the sesame chutney. The use of Indian flavours here is exemplary and is a clear pointer to the future when many more chefs will realise that the myriad different styles of Indian cooking contain treasures that are crying out to be revealed to a wider audience.
Our other appetizer on this occasion was a cream of garlic soup. This had great texture and an enormous depth of flavour. Another memorable dish.
On another occasion we tried a shrimp with black bean cake. Shrimp is usually pretty ordinary in New Orleans. You are rarely served them non-frozen. Well, these ones were very good, but it was the black bean cake that we got excited about. It had great texture and enormous flavour. If you tried the shrimp with a big dollop of the cake it was a lovely combination.
Even as we are writing this we can taste the main course. Moroccan poussin served with a spicy tomato sauce was cooked perfectly, had the bones left in (rare in a country obsessed with those awful de-boned chicken breasts) and had been barbequed to enhance the flavour.
Overall, the dining experience here is very good. We would like the waiting staff to be a bit more engaging - but they do a serviceable job.
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