by Ian McNulty
The duck and cashew butter sandwich will likely always have a place on the lunch menu at Bayona, where on any given day it appears that at least one person at every table orders it.
But from there, the daytime menu has been getting even more eclectic than usual. This is the work of Bayona’s sous chef Scott Maki, who first gained notice at the helm of Rambla, a contemporary Spanish restaurant in the International House Hotel. That restaurant closed earlier this year, but by then Maki had moved on to Bayona, working with chef de cuisine Brett Duffee and chef/owner Susan Spicer. More recently, Maki has been put in charge of Bayona’s lunch and a recent visit showed the direction(s) he’s headed.
There was, for instance, the pan-bagnat, which is essentially a salade Niçoise made into an open-faced sandwich. Shaved parmesan melted, slowly, over sweet potato gnocchi, pork meatballs and bitter rapini and seared scallops arrived over somen noodles and a tight, stir-fried salad of bok choy and slivered mushrooms. Lamb tenderloin was skewered for a kebab and balanced over fennel-olive relish, yogurt and feta with triangles of fried eggplant on the side.
But that was last week. Maki’s menus change a great deal week to week, while following a coordinated theme. Earlier menus paired those seared scallops with a Wagyu beef noodle bowl and kimchi, for instance, while the gnocchi supported braised rabbit and Italian sausage one day and escargot and spinach on another. A few staples of Spicer’s dinner menu make lunch cameos, like the sautéed sweetbreads with sherry-mustard butter, and of course there’s always that duck and cashew butter sandwich.
Accessing the French Quarter during the day right now takes a special effort if you need to get into a car to get there. Rampant road works have made parts of downtown de facto no-drive zones, it seems. But the surprises on this menu, and the lush, cloistering setting on Bayona’s patio this time of year, made that recent visit well worth it.
At lunch, most appetizers are $9 or $10, and entrees range from $13 to $17.
Bayona serves lunch Wednesday through Saturday, and on Saturday there’s a special three-course deal for $25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The restaurant serves dinner Monday through Saturday.
430 Dauphine St., 525-4455