New Orleans Eats: Bayona

Mar 20, 2012 by

The cozy dining room.

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.

Eggplant 'caviar'.

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.

Sweetbreads. Thymus-errific!

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!

 

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Toni

    You should really look into getting your reviews (especially restaurants) published somehow. Maybe there is a small local newspaper who could use a food critic? Or see if AAA will publish some in their magazines. They are so well written and just the right length. Even if (at first) this is unpaid, it gets you ‘street cred’ and gets your name out there. Maybe a travel book with just your reviews???? You could self-publish maybe. I kow you enjoy sharing them here (and I hope you are putting at least a short version on TripAdvisor), but you really should be getting more exposure and credit for such excellent work!!!

    • elbodans

      Aww–thanks. You are always so supportive. :-)

      I have been looking at places to have various pieces published. Just researching is a lot of work, but that’s what this year is for. I’ll keep you updated as to how it goes. I need to find a way to make a living doing what I love. And I love travel writing.

      In related news, I just spent the last half hour plotting out a road trip–south. I’m not sure if my husband will be joining me–if so, we won’t make it as far as you, given his extremely limited time. But if not–I’ll be contacting you shortly. ;-)

      • Toni

        YEAH! I just learned about a new garden in Georgia. It’s in Cherokee county and is called Gibbs Garden (gibbsgardens.com/). It is very near the area where I ‘grew up’. Not quite as large as Callaway Gardens, it is much closer!!! I hope to be able to take my mom down to see it soon – and to visit her sister (their mom, my grandmother, died back at the end of January). It’s about a 4 hour drive from Charlotte, and could be on the way to the Blue Ridge Mts. if you wanted. What route are you considering? I’ll be happy (more than happy) to give my input, suggesstions,etc. and they’ll all be worth every penny you spend on getting them- LOL LOL LOL!!!

        Here’s one idea for a shorter type trip:
        Philly to Charlotte – 8 hours- could break into 2 days by stopping in Richmond Va or Roanoke Va, depending on route.
        Then you could drive out the NC’s ‘wine country’- there are lots of vinyards and wineries just a couple of hours from Charlotte. Including one that specializes in Mead or Honey Wine!!! Some also do fruit wines- like blackberry or stawberry – and non-traditional grape wines- like scuppernong. Then you could work your way back up towards Va and Washington.
        Or from Charlotte head to Ga- either Cherokee co/Atlanta area or Savannah.
        Ah well- it’s your trip, not mine. But you have LOTS AND LOTS of fun and interesting alternatives.

        • elbodans

          I know–just looking at the map I’m thinking a four day trip isn’t going to cut it. And that’s all my husband has. We shall see. I really wanted to drive down to DC tomorrow to see the cherry blossoms. Maybe I’ll just keep driving? Ha!

          But seriously–I’ve done stranger things!

          • Toni

            Why not?!? The cherry trees, Bradford Pear trees and Red Bud trees are all blooming here. I could meet you Thursday for lunch. Or you could come stratight here tomorrow and maybe we could meet for supper, then you could head back up to Washington on Thursday. Lots of ways to work it. But we will be out of town on Saturday and Sunday- going to VEGAS, Baby!! To see Rod Stewart.
            If you want to wait til next week you could head to Washington for the weekend, then Charlotte at the first of the week….
            If hubby only has 4 days… On his last day of work, leave home and head for Washington or Richmond (4-5 hours). Then to Charlotte – another 4 (or YOU drive through part of the night all the way to Charlotte). Spend one day here, then over toWinston-Salem and visit one winery and tour Old Salem. Then home on last day. Its do-able.
            Or fly to Charlotte, rent car- tour area (LOTS of options) and fly home.
            On my- maybe we both need to become travel agents. LOL

          • Toni

            I forgot— if you do head this way in the near future, just email me and I’ll give you my cell phone # and help with directions.

  2. I love ordering appetizers! I often get them instead of the main meal. New Orleans is on my must-see list and I’m adding this restaurant to that list as well. Not sure about sweetbreads though…even with your lovely description…

    • elbodans

      Oh you simply must try them!

      And beware–this is only my third restaurant review post. I believe I have something like five more in the works. I have never been to another place where I wished for more hours in the day just so I could have more meals! (Well maybe Portland, Maine. And Vegas. Ok–maybe I just like to eat!)

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