Report on Bayard's (long)
We had a fabulous dinner at Bayards last night. I must admit to being a little nervous when I made the reservation because I knew nothing about it except that my favorite New York chef, Eberhard Muller, had moved there from Lutece. We were two couples and the dinner was a shared birthday celebration for both husbands. I mentioned the birthdays when I made the reservation.
The building that houses Bayards (and also Harrys of Hanover Square) is a restored landmark the India House. Being unfamiliar with the financial district, we had a hard time finding it but, fortunately, there was an enormous banner with the name on it, waving from a flagpole on the building. The entrance was up a flight of stairs from the street and, once in, we were ushered up another flight to the dining room. (I assume, though I didnt ask, that theres an accessible entry and an elevator.)
There were several dining rooms on the second floor and I got the impression that there were more on the next level. We were seated close to a wood-burning fireplace, which was lovely and surprising.
The first thing we ate was a little lagniappe from the chef of a couple of small shrimp with some julienned vegetables. Im allergic to shrimp and offered mine to my fellow diners to share, and the chef happened to pass by just at that moment. He obviously took note and, minutes later, I was given a small dish with dressed mâche and thin slices of smoked cod, accompanied by warm, soft toast points. It was delicious.
Our appetizers: (1) beef carpaccio, with a small mound of French egg salad. We asked what made it French and the response was a helping of Dijon mustard. It was also accompanied by toast points; (2) Maine crab salad; (3) lobster salad; and (4) seared foie gras with grapes and a tiny salad. The crab and lobster salads were delicious, the carpaccio was even more so, but the absolute standout was the foie gras. The captain offered me a small glass of Riesling to go with it. Two generous slices of liver were seared beautifully on both sides (to bring it just past bloody rare in the center) and lightly salted, the sauce was deep and sweet, and a forkful followed by a sip of Riesling we all agreed was bliss.
Next we all shared two orders of the days special appetizer baby mussels in white wine/butter/parsley. Traditional and very good if you are a mussel fan. I can take em or leave em, but we finished every one.
On to the main courses: (1) Dover sole (boned tableside) in brown butter, with boiled potatoes and spinach; (2) rack of lamb, cooked medium rare; (3 & 4) crisp-skinned black bass with herbed noodles. Everything here was marvelous. For those who are fans of Dover sole, this was prepared just as it should be browned and perfect. The lamb was excellent, too, but I have to admit that I didnt even notice what else was on my husbands plate. The bass was a special last night, but its a dish Muller had on the menu at Lutece and one that Id always loved. We were absolutely not disappointed.
We were all very full and decided to order just two desserts and share them between the four of us. When we ordered, though, the captain asked, since we had two birthdays at the table, would we let him select two more, on the house? You betcha! So we ended up with (1) a delicious tarte tatin and vanilla ice cream, (2) a chocolate dome over hazelnut praline mousse, (3) champagne sorbet in an herbal-tasting soup with lots of little pieces of fresh fruit, and (4) pear sorbet, studded with slices of crisp dried Granny Smith apple.
The dinner was just wonderful, the service was warm and inviting, and the chef, who was apparently quite pleased to know that his frequent guests from Lutece were following him, finished it up for us with a complimentary glass of port. The check was quite high (the wine was $90) but nowhere near the stratospheric prices of Ducasse and worth every penny. I can see us going back to celebrate just about anything.
"Was it as good as Lutece was or other "4 star" restaurants?"
I would say that the food was definitely as good, but that it wouldn't warrant 4 stars because the atmosphere wouldn't fit that definition. When I think of a "4 star" French restaurant, I visualize La Cote Basque or La Grenouille. Bayard's doesn't seem "grand," but more like an old gentlemen's club. Which is not to say that we were displeased. On the contrary, we all felt quite comfortable with the lack of "haute French" surroundings and attitude.
I didn't mention in my first posting that there were quite a number of empty tables on Monday evening. They do their biggest business at lunchtime and the captain told us that they're quite busy on Saturday nights now. The atmosphere might feel a bit different -- more charged, maybe -- when the dining rooms are filled.
"Was it as expensive as Lutece (saying it was less than Ducasse still gives a lot of room!). I.e. price of apps, entrees."
Dinner. including tax and tip, for the four of us, with that $90 bottle of wine and several pre-dinner cocktails, was about $500. I can't give you the breakdown because I honestly didn't pay attention, but they have a website and there's a representative menu on it.