Bayona

430 Dauphine St., (504) 525-4455; bayona.com

Bayona has the graceful contours of an old restaurant but acts like a much newer one. Often innovative, sometimes playful, Susan Spicer's menus are more attuned to a Creole sense of cultural interchange than any particular Creole dishes. The shrimp and black bean cakes, the salmon with choucroute and even the unlikely but undeniable lunchtime hit of a duck and cashew butter sandwich have all become fixtures by now. But a globetrotting curiosity in this kitchen means there’s always something inventive to try. The wine list is a food pairing paradise. It all sets the scene for serious fine dining that doesn't feel stuffy. Lunch Wed.-Sat., dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$

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Advocate photo by J.T. BLATTY-- Compère Lapin restaurant's half chicken dish with turnips and leeks. 

Compère Lapin

535 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 599-2119; comperelapin.com

Chef Nina Compton did not exactly come out of nowhere. She gained an enduring following from her star turn on Top Chef back in 2014. But Compère Lapin can still take you by surprise, with cuisine that’s strikingly modern and also immediately approachable. It works because it starts with a French and Italian framework, upon which Compton adds her own personal perspective. That often means unabashedly bold flavors from her native Caribbean, while more delicate dishes showcase the freshness of Gulf seafood in particular. While Compton’s cooking is focused, the setting is still fun. Fans of craft cocktails will find a new home at this bar, and lunch ranks as one of the unheralded gems of downtown daytime dining. Dinner daily, lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch Sat. and Sun. $$$$

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Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Coquette in New Orleans serves a modern and original cuisine based on local flavors.

Scott Threlkeld

Coquette

2800 Magazine St., (504) 265-0421; coquettenola.com

An elegant townhouse at the edge of the Garden District sets a classic tone, but chef Micheal Stoltzfus and his new co-chef Kristin Essig make a visit to this bistro a much more contemporary, often thrilling prospect. Their view on modern American cuisine is artfully composed, original and impossible to hem in, rolling from tea-cured cobia lushly layered over pickles to a textbook chicken roulade next to a salad of mozzarella and frisee splashed with watermelon hot sauce. The style also applies to an increasing number of special dining events, bar menus and nightly blind tasting options. There’s serious fine dining here, but also an appreciation that the same clientele will come back for other formats when the flavors hit like this. Dinner daily, lunch Fri., brunch Sat. and Sun. $$$$

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Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- The dining room at GW Fins Restaurant in New Orleans.

GW Fins

808 Bienville St., (504) 581-3467; gwfins.com

No restaurant in New Orleans does more with the Gulf seafood abundance than GW Fins. The variety on hand is impressive, and the ways chefs Mike Nelson and Tenney Flynn serve it seem boundless. Blue crab pot stickers and a whole sideline of crudo are mainstays, while much of the menu changes based on recent catches, from wood-grilled pompano to the occasional appearance of lionfish, often procured by the chef himself on spear fishing dives. The setting is grand, with booths resembling theater boxes curving around the room, service is formal and the deep wine list is well-tuned to the menu. Dinner nightly. $$$$

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Gnocchi with beef and mushrooms at Lilette, a fine bistro on Magazine Street.

Lilette

3637 Magazine St., (504) 895-1636; liletterestaurant.com

The dining room at this gorgeous bistro looks almost precisely the same as when it debuted in 2001. Even more remarkably, the core of its original menu remains intact, too. And yet, Lilette feels as vital and seductive as it did when people first swooned for the place. That’s a tribute to the consistency and technique that define chef John Harris’ kitchen, which has made boudin noir, the decadent marrow and truffle Parmigiano toast and hanger steak into staples, alongside a fixation on Pacific fish. The chef’s related Bouligny Tavern next door makes a compelling pre- or post-dinner package when you want to live it up. Lunch Tue.-Sat., dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$

Rue 127

127 N. Carrollton Ave., (504) 483-1571; rue127.com

Few dishes on the menu at chef Ray Gruezke’s cottage-sized, tightly orchestrated bistro initially seem to leap off the page for attention. However, any apprehension that a meal here might be ordinary will quickly dissipate as the dishes materialize. Supple, buttery salmon sits under a caramelized crust and over rice pilaf imbued with bone marrow. A crunchy/fresh salad of herbs, micro greens and batter-fried shallots crowns the kingly double-cut pork chop. Take a closer look at the menu and you’ll see a whole roster of crave-worthy little “snacks” — fried foie gras bites, chicken cracklin’, smoked frites. The small dining room and patio fill quickly at night, though Rue 127 is a low-key keeper for upscale lunch. Lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$

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Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ--Chef Phillip Lopez in the kitchen at Square Root.

Square Root/Root

1800 Magazine St., (504) 309-7800; squarerootnola.com

Square Root is the New Orleans entry in the high-end trend of tasting menu as culinary performance art. There is a second part of the equation here, however, which makes it a bit more versatile. The main act downstairs is chef Phillip Lopez’s set menu extravaganza, delivered face-to-face with your chefs at a dining bar, at great cost ($150 per person before you add drinks, tax or tip) and with great panache. Tiny dishes with their own special effects and narratives progress across 12 to 15 courses that you'll be talking about for a long time to come, and perhaps paying for as well. Upstairs is a distinct eatery, now called Root, with an al a cart menu that functions best as a high-end tavern with a strong suit in charcuterie. Dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$$$

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.