NEW ORLEANS: BAYONA, SPICING UP THE QUARTER
So, for my last meal in New Orleans, I decided to go back to a restaurant which provided one of the best meals on DH’s last visit to this city.
Bayona, headed up by Chef/Owner, Susan Spicer has been maintaining its reputation amongst the best restaurants in the USA since it opened (in the early 90’s I think) and, on our previous visit, some five years ago, DH encountered elegant food in an elegant surrounding with elegant service.
After the more down home style of the last few days, that sounded as if it would be just the job for a leisurely lunch.
They say that you can never go home, meaning, I think, that you cannot recapture past glories. Well, I understand what they mean for, while this was by no means a bad meal, it failed to spark my enthusiasm in the way that my last meal there had.
The room has changed little and they even sat me at the same table. Sad really, but I remember stuff like that.
The lunch menu is an attractive collection of dishes and, I was delighted to see, included a dish that would probably still rank in my top ten of all time even though it is a soup.
Susan Spicer’s garlic soup is a thing of such beauty that it is almost impossible to put over in words just how delicious it is. Layers of flavour that comes from sweet roasted garlic and deeply flavoured stock topped with slivers of crunchy garlic to give a bite. Quite simply, it is one of those dishes that lives in the memory and I am pleased to say it did not let me down being just as gorgeous as I recall it being all those years ago.
Less successful was a plate of sweetbreads with mushrooms, fried cubed potatoes and two sauces ( lemon& caper and sherry & mustard) The sweetbreads were perfectly prepared. Crisp on the outside and melting on the inside. The sauces, however, were horrifically ill considered one being cloying and the other wincingly sharp. The potatoes had been fried too long before and reheated so they tasted like roast potatoes from yesterday’s Sunday lunch. A shame as the main ingredient was worth a better effort.
Fortunately, a grilled Redfish for my main course, was more along the lines of what I was expecting, particularly when I saw Spicer wandering around in Chef’s whites. The fish was cooked just to point and the skin was good and crispy. The advertised green beans turned out to be a parsimonious pile of slightly limp beans, but the pecan rice was a good accompaniment.
I did not bother with pudding and the bill, with a cocktail and a glass of wine came to $70 ( about £35) which represents reasonable if not spectacular value for a restaurant of Bayona’s reputation.
It was good to go back. The service and ambience remain charming and that soup is worth the entrance money on its own. However, I think they are right. I don’t think I will be back a third time when I next hit The Big Easy.
On to Philadelphia