Bayard’s. Whose? Oh, it’s only the place where Eberhard Müller (ex-Le Bernardin, ex-Lutèce) is executive chef, and in season supplies the restaurant with produce from his farm on Long Island. And where Eric Bedoucha (also ex-Lutèce) is the pastry chef. Bayard’s. Where? Below Wall Street, at William and Pearl Streets. On Hanover Square, in a building built in the early1850s for the Hanover Bank; later the home of the NY Cotton Exchange, and still later of W. R. Grace & Company. Not exactly taxicab heaven. But that doesn’t matter, since we walked there and back (albeit in heavy, cold rain). I love my neighborhood. Bayard’s is where we ended up having my birthday dinner this year. It was a good choice: an elegant, uncrowded space; tastefully decorated (love those ship models!); very attentive service; extensive wine list; and very, very good food. My only regret is that my birthday is in January, not August, when the harvest from Chef’s farm would be incredible. Even now, though, the meal was quite good. Cocktails: Tio Pepe for Paul; Campari for me. My glass had a chip off the rim – drink was whisked away with apologies. Fresh drink within moments. They use a BIG pour. Amuse: about 1 ½ tablespoons of Cauliflower Gratin, garnished with chopped tarragon, in an adorable tiny china dish with a teeny handle. Do not touch the handle unless you have asbestos fingers. I was quite happy that the portion of cauliflower was so small, because the dish was just cauliflower and heavy cream. Ummmm, yum. And VERY fresh herb on top. I asked the captain if it was from a greenhouse at the farm, but he had some language problems, so I’m not sure. Appetizers: Warm Fisher Island Oysters with Osetra Caviar and Champagne Sauce; Tuna Tartar with Mint, Lime, and Sesame. When William Grimes reviewed Bayard’s in February, 2001, he described the oyster dish as seeming “dutiful.” If that’s still the case, I don’t mind doing my duty with them. Just barely warmed, so they felt only slightly firmer than raw; the flavor of the wine and cream in the sauce in excellent contrast to the salinity of the oysters and of the caviar. The tartar came to the table as a cylinder of perfectly trimmed, hand-diced tuna belly, with little mounds of lime flesh, mint, salt, and wasabi in the corners of the plate, and a bit of sesame oil around. The captain mixed it at table. Beautiful tuna, and just enough of the other flavors to complement each other but never overpower anything. Definitely one of the best I’ve had (I used to make it for a chef who was an Alfred Portale disciple, and I checked it out at a lot of places). Mains: The captain had some trouble reciting/reading the specials, but we knew as soon as we heard it that we had to have the Roast Veal Loin with Braised Leeks and a light red wine sauce and black truffles. An accompanying dish was a little more difficult to find, only because many looked inviting. How often do you see Dover Sole? We ended up getting the Roast Pheasant Breast with Champagne Sauerkraut and “Foie Gras” sauce. The veal was five pale pink, medium-rare medallions, well-seared on the outside and with much more flavor than I expect from veal; the leeks were “melted” with all the sweetness and none of the harshness of the onion family. There were some roasted tourné potatoes. The sauce was, I am very happy to say, NOT over-reduced or gluey, and flavorful but not too intense. The only problem was the huge amount of chopped black truffles. Not that the perfume of what could have been almost a whole truffle was too much; alas, there was no perfume to the truffle at all. Oh, well. No problem at all with the pheasant, which I think might have been wrapped in pancetta before roasting. Moist, mildly gamey. The sauerkraut also melted. Fingerling potato just okay. A touch of sauce – was this with foie? Maybe, but even better was an unidentified item wrapped in kataifa (a Greek shredded-wheat type of pastry); inside the kataifa was a layer of pancetta, and inside that...? Again, language problems asking the captain; first he came back to tell us: Leeks. No, no, we said, inside the kataifa. Now he came back with: foie gras. Aha! It was done in such a way that while the pastry was browned, the foie was not melted, but still in a cube. :lips: Wine: Puligny Montrachet, Louis Carillon et Fils 1998. Big and buttery. Went very well with the mains. When I first looked at the list, I didn’t realize that it starts out with “large format” bottles. Gulp. After flipping pages and reading for about 15 minutes – it’s a huge list – I got to some reasonable (for us) bottles. Dessert: we were willing to wait the 10 minutes for a soufflé, coffee our choice of flavor. I ordered a Mandalora (almond-flavored grappa) in the interim. Again, a BIG pour, and unexpectedly served cold. I don’t think I liked that temperature. With the soufflé they also brought a dessert I had mentioned I might want, a financier topped with pear slices. And a candle. Well, they had seen Paul give me a card. But the dead giveaway was when neighbors of ours came in and were seated near us, and I asked if it was one of their birthdays, too. The cake and crème fraiche were very good, the accompanying myrtilles (tiny wild blueberries) compote intensely fruity. The soufflé felt a little rubbery to me, but the coffee flavor (enhanced by a coffee sauce) was strong, and not too sweet. Petits fours: almond tuiles (a little over-baked ), tiny financiers, macarons filled with lemon or almond cream; nougats with almonds and hazelnuts; fruit jellies (passionfruit and some sort of berry); barely sweetened chocolate truffles, mmmmmm; a small cake layered with vanilla mousse and lemon curd; and a miniature tiramisu-sort of cake. I only tasted; I didn’t actually EAT these. By this time Paul had given up, and just drank his decaf espresso. The service throughout was very good (with the exception of the language problems). If Bayard’s were in a more populace area, it would probably be impossible to get a table. I’m glad it’s in MY neighborhood.