Payard: Bouillabaisse, heady and rich, with its traditional accompaniments.
1032 Lexington Avenue,
near 73rd Street
The bouillabaisse at Payard Bistro ($25 lunch, $26 dinner) is the real thing, the bowl overflowing with plump mussels, clams, and perfectly cooked rings of tiny calamari, even if the fish is a departure from tradition -- Chilean sea bass, which sops up the wonderful fish broth flavored with tomato, saffron, and fennel. Thinly sliced croutons are the perfect size to smear with garlicky aļoli and float in the bowl.
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
Perch at the counter in the crowded Pearl Oyster Bar for the bouillabaisse, a bargain ($17.50, dinner only) considering the generous portions of mussels and clams, a lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, and black sea bass cooked to perfection, all nestling in a lobster-shell broth infused with saffron and fennel.