Random Notes: Argentine Beef
[December 1998]


  0nly one type of restaurant goer could be alienated by Pâtisserie & Bistro, the Upper East Side's hottest new spot for Gallic indulgence: the old-fashioned kind who finds something disorienting about a high-caliber restaurant devoting itself to a multiplicity of functions. “Le Pavillon didn't sell any damned croissants,” this culinary Luddite might say. But for those comfortable with the movement away from specialization in America's restau-rants, Payard is nothing less than a glorious collision of gustatory possibilities, each of which brings something new and delicious to the New York food scene.
      The first function reflected in the res-taurant’s name is pâtisserie–and if there's a better one of these in this city, I'd like to know about it fast. The exquisite quality here makes perfect sense, of course, as the chef and co-owner, François Payard, is the gifted young man from Nice who dazzled diners as pastry chef at Le Bernardin, and then at Restaurant Daniel. The owner of that stellar establishment, Daniel Boulud, knows a good thing when he tastes it and


helped his pâtissier raise the money for Payard where Boulud is a co-owner.
      Your introduction to the venture is an eye-popping array of glittering pastries nestled in display cases just past the Art Nouveau front doors. There are dream-inducing renditions of traditional petits gâteaux such as the sophisticated cream puffs called Paris-Brest and religieuse, and the napoleon. Other gems that spring from François's perfervid imagination include the feathery mango-coconut con-fection, Mont-St.-Michel; the Pont Neuf, a deeply flavored chocolate-mousse crea-tion; and the spectacular chocolate-and-hazelnut dome called Le Louvre.  And there are wonderful fruit tarts (par-ticularly the apple with créme Chiboust topping and the banana with pastry cream), full-sized cakes, babas, sweet croissants, éclairs, and house-made chocolates galore.
      If déjeuner is your choice, you can walk on the savory side, too. In addition to the sweets, those front cases contain marvel-ous cheese, meat, and vegetable panini (which get weighted and grilled); lovely quiches with light and crumbly crusts; and



a seductive croque-monsieur–a gooey, béchamel-drenched, golden wonder of a ham-and-cheese sandwich, for those days when nothing but calories will do.
      In the main part of the restaurant you enter the domain of the establishment’s second declared function: bistro. Once again, Payard is hard to pin down. The simple, modern, personal food created here by Restaurant Daniel alumnus Philippe Bertineau is indeed reminiscent of food in contemporary Parisian bistros–but the clatter of this downstairs dining room, bouncing as it does off the wood floors and tall mirrors, creates a broader, more public sweep akin to that of a French brasserie.
      If you prefer the intimate bistro feel, dine at night in the carpeted, lower-ceilinged quieter upstairs where Bertineau's careful food seems most at home. He has certainly caught the Payard spirit from François; some of the menu's most appealing offerings feature pastry

Above: Grilling Marinated beef at Kang Suh; Payard's layered Dome Praline; and Solera, in midtown