New Orleans Eats: Bayona
I didn’t make reservations for dinner at Bayona. My new friend and kindred spirit Heather made the reservation for us when she found out I’d be visiting her city. Ever wonder how you can tell when you’ve found a kindred spirit? I’ll tell you–they make reservations for you at a place like Bayona. And they do so without even asking if you’re interested. Of course you’re interested.
Bayona is a lovely little restaurant. It’s fancy without being stuffy and cozy without feeling cramped. The wait staff is just helpful enough, and our waiter didn’t even flinch when we informed him that we’d be ordering only appetizers–many of them–and that we wanted them to come out one at a time. Fortunately, he didn’t need to worry about a small tab and the resulting small tip–our selections from the wine list more than made up for any savings we may have gained from sharing small plates.
And I love sharing small plates.
We started with a cold dish, the eggplant caviar and tapenade with herb croutons. The eggplant was clearly roasted in some fashion, as it had a very nice smokey quality. It was served with feta, and the saltiness of the feta was wonderful with the creamy, smoky eggplant. And of course, I always love tapenade. Kalamata olives are one of the best things on earth, and blending them with eggplant is a really good idea.
Speaking of best things on earth, our second course contained one of my favorite combinations–beets and goat cheese. It was a salad on the specials menu and sadly I did not write down the full name. So let’s just call it a beet and goat cheese salad. Both red and golden beets were used, and golden beets are my most favorite type of beet (yes, I have a favorite type of beet. I realize that’s strange, and I don’t care). It also contained a bit of raw fennel, which I found to be both unique and refreshing–it added the crunch usually provided by walnuts. The walnuts were replaced by sunflower seeds, yet another interesting and new spin on the somewhat traditional dish.
Our final appetizer course was the dish Bayona is known for–veal sweetbreads with lemon caper butter. As a self-professed semi-foodie, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never tried sweetbreads. Sure, I’d seen them on menus–and on Top Chef and Iron Chef and just about every other show featuring some kind of chef–but I’d never ordered them. I admit to being a little grossed out (for those of you unfamiliar with food jargon, sweetbreads is a euphemistic culinary term for the thymus gland. Mmmm…thymus gland). But Heather insisted they were amazing, and I’ll never turn down the chance to try something new.
And do you know what? The sweetbreads were amazing. Fried crispy yet so tender on the inside they were almost creamy (I said almost–actually creamy would have been a bit gross), and covered in sauce so good I wanted to lick it off the plate. They were also served with sauteed mushrooms and cubed beets, two of my favorite things in the world. Yes–I can see why Bayona is famous for this dish. If I ever return–and I hope I will some day soon–I’ll order them again.
And next time, I will lick the sauce off the plate. It really was that good.
We also ordered dessert–a chocolate panna cotta. But I can’t include a review of the dessert. You see, we’d also ordered pretty liberally off of the wine menu. So it’s entirely possible that I don’t remember eating the panna cotta. Though I did take a photo of it–so I know it somehow got to the table.
Hey–don’t judge. You’ve done it too–or you will some day. Maybe even in New Orleans.
Bayona is located at 420 Dauphine Street, one street up from Bourbon between St. Louis and Conti. The prices are, in my opinion, extremely reasonable for the quality of food served–at least compared to other major metro areas. As long as you control your wine consumption!