We enjoyed a fine meal at Gabrielle's last night, and yet in some ways it was the least special meal of the trip so far. It's less than 24 hours ago, and yet I don't remember that much about it, except that the homemade peppermint ice cream was delicious, the space pleasant and quiet, and the wine list disappointing. Execution didn't quite match the promise of the menu.
Lunch today at Bayona. Fabulous. On a nice day, you can't get much better than a leisurely lunch on the patio. The six of us split sweetbreads (to my taste, one of the top 10 dishes in N.O.), cashew butter & jelly and smoked duck sandwich, salads and garlic soup, and 6 different entrees. As usual, Bayona does wonderfully by salmon, a steak salad with perfectly grilled Henry Niman skirt steak, sauteed shrimp with spicy rice, mahi mahi with coconut sticky purple rice (the rice was more interesting than the fish) and a vegetarian frittata. The entrees were perhaps not quite up to the standard of the two appetizers, but there wasn't one discordant note.
We split three desserts, including a superb flourless chocolate cake, a pistachio rice pudding, and another chocolate dessert that I didn't try. The service was informal but professional in the best sense of the word. Everyone who works at Bayona seems happy and proud to be there. Bayona is a bargain at lunch (our check, with minimal alcohol but plenty of iced tea and coffee, was $35 per person).
While Bayona is celebrating its 13th anniversary, gin or vodka martinis are 13 cents apiece. No limit (I'm not sure whether this deal is available only at lunch).
The lunch menu is a little smaller than the dinner menu, but is just as alluring and notably cheaper. I much prefer it to dinner -- it's relaxed, charming, and pretty close to heaven.
I can't believe it, but due to incessant whining by my comrades, I'm going back to Mosca's tonight.