A collection of cocktails at Bayona
Susan Spicer has been a culinary bad ass for about thirty years longer than the cronut will be popular. Bayona, which she opened with Regina Keever almost a quarter century ago, has been welding cuisines together long before the term fusion. A look around at the chefs of the city's newest darlings reveals that many of them made a stop on Dauphine at one time or another. Spicer's cookbook is solid gold and Mondo is a worldly enough neighborhood restaurant that stock in it could one day be traded on the NYSE. Hagiography done.
But eating at Bayona? Does anyone do that enough?
The answer is probably not.
It is easy to draw parallels between the interior of Bayona and the much missed Bistro at the Maison de Ville. This would make sense as Spicer was the opening chef of that vaunted establishment. Dark, rich fabrics, sturdy furnishings, paintings, and tablecloths cloak the successive rooms in what would give a modern restaurant designer a heart attack. Service is considerate, young, and punctual enough for you to offer them a job babysitting. They'll even track down a cocktail recipe, should you ask.
The food at Bayona has always begged to be defined but rarely captured with a simple phrase. Creole seems too generic, world cuisine too self-important, eclectic too dismissive. The food is fantastic. Let's just define it like that.
Spicer's best work is in the early stages of a meal. Her sweetbreads know no peer. Plump and crisp their creaminess plays foil to crisp potatoes and earthy beets. Italian arancini get a Provence, Yall twist with tart goat cheese and Alabama peaches filling in for mozzarella and red gravy. Simplicity as the rule applies on her crouton plastered with goat cheese and adorned with mushrooms in a Madeira cream. A roasted garlic soup is just that: roasted garlic, onions, stock, thickened with bread.
The smoked duck PB&J is too rich by half and I always regret ordering it. In theory, it sounds like a winner. Smoked duck, cashew butter, and pepper jelly piled onto toasted bread; but the sandwich's flavors come across as muddled and confused. Better is a bowl of barbecue shrimp, pimento cheese grits, and greens which is like putting together an awesome plate of food at a heavenly church picnic.
You likely haven't been to Bayona in some time. Remedy that. And one more thing, get the watermelon jalapeno cocktail. After you do, email me for the recipe.
Bayona: Is It Worth It? Yes.
430 Dauphine St.