There are New Yorkers who have never been to the Statue of Liberty. It’s no surprise that some people in the Lehigh Valley are unaware of the Bay Leaf Restaurant. Considering that a lot of residents seldom have reason to drive in downtown Allentown, it would be easy to overlook this storefront establishment on Hamilton Street. It’s tucked unobtrusively in the middle of the block between 9th and 10th, up from the PPL Tower. Those who have discovered the Bay Leaf, however, and the culinary options within, are likely to return repeatedly.
The independent, family-owned restaurant has been in business at the same location for 30 years offering what it describes as “new American and Asian cuisine.” It has developed its loyal following with an extensive menu of carefully-crafted dishes, an imaginative mix of ingredients, and interesting sauces. Service is unhurried. Guests should expect to spend ample time for a leisurely dining experience, complete with table linens, candles and a subdued décor of yellows, reds and ochres.
The Bay Leaf serves lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. The depth of the luncheon menu is impressive. Customers should not expect burgers and fries, but rather plan a trip to the Bay Leaf for restaurant quality dishes. For example, pistachio encrusted salmon is served on a pita with avocado, tomato and basil; chicken lorraine is made with bacon, mushrooms and cream sauce; angel hair pasta and sea scallops are dressed with plum tomato sauce; pad thai noodles are prepared with shrimp, tofu, sprouts and crushed peanuts in sweet and sour sauce. There are several soups and salads, as well. The majority of lunch items are priced $7.50 - $10.95.
At dinner, the selection of appetizers is almost as long as the list of entrees and just as varied. Virtually all are priced at $9.95. They include pan roasted black mussels, crab cake with fresh fruit and aioli, and steak sate with Thai peanut sauce and cucumber salad. A la carte salads (priced $4.95 - $9.95) range from typical with a twist (mixed green salad tossed with apples, gorgonzola, port wine and honey drizzle) to the classic Thai sum tum (green papaya salad with shrimp, carrots and green beans).
The entrees at Bay Leaf defy simple categorization, but they include duck breast, lamb, steak, veal, chicken and a large variety of shellfish and fin fish. Grouper is prepared with Dijon potato crust, shitake mushrooms and sherry vinegar wine reduction. There’s stir fry Siamese chicken with Thai curry and vegetables, rack of lamb with cognac rosemary jus, and scallops with vermouth cream sauce. Entrees are priced $17.95 - $28.95.
Besides street parking, there is a parking lot around back. It’s worth a visit ahead of time to the Bay Leaf website to get directions for how to most efficiently navigate Allentown’s one-way streets.
935 W. Hamilton St., Allentown, PA 18101. 610-433-4211. www.allentownbayleaf.com