Bayona, New Orleans.

March 2017.

This highly-rated restaurant served reasonably good food but it came in such a coarse package, figuratively speaking, that we left scratching our heads and smiling ruefully.

We entered off the French Quarter street down a pretty flagstone walk and in through an authentic French door. Three people at the desk gave a cheerful welcome. Some sort of coded message was passed and we followed a lady through the practically deserted main floor dining room with its lovely interior to a narrow stairway, at the top of which she pointed out a bathroom and then we entered a long narrow attic space and were seated at one of eight tables there.

The male server gave us his name and told us that we’d be looked after tonight by him and (female name), and asked us if we’d like a nice glass of rosé to cleanse the palate as though that’s what people normally do. We declined once it was clear that this was not complementary. It was freezing cold in this attic and the couple at the table nearby agreed that we ought to turn down the air conditioning. The temperature improved.

Anxiety with potentially a touch of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was our diagnosis of the female server who appeared next and motor-mouthed about the menu choices including a couple of specials. I seem to have a problem I call embarrassment by proxy, and I would have done almost anything to get her to stop her loud discursive talking, but finally cutting across to say we’d think about it did the job.

We made the mistake of asking questions about the wine. It was a mistake because it prompted the somellier to appear, a big middle-aged woman possibly, we thought, a family member of the female server because she got going on a very loud rant about the various choices around the price and varietal range we indicated to her, starting with my favourite least-helpful comment after asking for help with wine, “It depends what you like.” Of course it depends what you like. I want to know what you have here that is in your opinion good, and good value. She continued to a string of even less helpful rounded, fruity, sharp, light, chardonnay-like, heavy, stemmy, grassy, delicious, forward… Everybody else in the room was looking at her I guess but because she was talking to us and for the above-described reason I somehow felt responsible. Anyway I just chose a pinot noir based on price and that seemed to shut her down. The wine turned out to be quite wonderful.

The food was delicious in general but it was expensive and also didn’t really overcome the bipolar verbal presentation. Robin had a tuna tartare salad which was nicely seasoned and tasted of very good vinegar. My goat cheese croutons with mushrooms and Madeira cream (server said it was her favourite) really was wonderful with toasts baked with soft seared mushrooms in the fortified wine blending beautifully. Sweetbread, praised to the rafters as the chef’s specialty was good, flavorful, not as crisp as I’ve had it elsewhere, but hard to complain about. My rabbit roulade was a creative effort but the meat was as rabbit nearly always is dry.

Wouldn’t go back. Even though it was tasty food you can get as good locally for quite a bit less money and not have to endure anxious precious staff trying to pretend they are making sure you have a good time while in reality dealing with their own psychopathology.

Food 8.8, service 5.7, ambience 6.8, value 6.8, peace and quiet 7.6 (as long as the staff isn’t shouting).

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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