François Payard Returns to the Upper East Side

By Nadia Ghattas, Epoch Times
June 12, 2013 12:03 pm Last Updated: June 12, 2013 2:49 pm

Third-generation and world-renowned French pastry chef François Payard returned to the Upper East Side last fall, opening a new multi-faceted, Parisian-style patisserie between 75th and 74th Streets on Third Avenue.

Just a block away from his old flagship location on Lexington Avenue that for 12 years won him accolades from fans, locals, and critics, FP Patisserie embraces and pays homage to the original Payard’s Patisserie & Bistro.

Here, food inspired by French classics and Payard’s refined French pastries reign supreme.

The front of the store is filled with stunning displays of the chef’s intricately decorated pastries and desserts. You will find delicately decorated chocolates, macarons in mounds or in beautiful boxes, éclairs, fruits tarts, and the chef’s signature jams. Each creation is an elaborate piece of art.

Payard is a master. His fearless creativity and exceptional techniques are acclaimed. He has been honing his skills ever since he was a young boy spending time at his grandfather’s famous patisserie in Nice, on the French Riviera. He has worked as pastry chef in France’s and New York’s finest Michelin-starred kitchens, such as La Tour d’Argent, Lucas Carton, Le Bernardin, and Restaurant Daniel.

A Patisserie, a Bar, and a Salon de Thé—All in One

Besides being a patisserie, FP Patisserie is also a bar and salon de thé.

If you are feeling social, you can enjoy a light meal at the bar. The bar, which seats 15 people, gives a feeling of intimacy. It is U-shaped and framed by hand-painted murals and mirrors that adorn the walls. It also acts as a divider between the front room and the warm and chic salon de thé. From the wine and beverage list, you can have a choice of a simple sparkling wine or perhaps a more extravagant wine cocktail, such as the Poire Chaude, which is a mélange of Ecco Domani Moscato wine, pear cider, cayenne pepper, and a sea salt rim.

Payard said the concept behind the new location is a salon de thé (tea room), which is circular and comfortable, with plush leather banquettes. The ambiance is cheerful and warm. The service is impeccable and makes you feel pampered.

I had the luck of being there while chef Payard was there, too. Waving his arm around the room as he spoke, he said, “It is a different concept. It is a salon de thé. It is for lunch or for an early dinner, and it is a work in progress. We ask what our guests like, and we adjust the menu accordingly.”

The menu offers a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, and entrees, and of course besides a list of desserts, a section dedicated to verrines, these luxurious confections that show off their layers in clear glasses. A foodie friend described them as the best in the world. Or have one of his multi-layered almond croissants, which no one in the world has been able to duplicate. You can enjoy those with a pot of tea or coffee.

All menu items are cooked on premise while the pastry comes from the bakery downtown.

On a hot summer day, the cold Carrot and Ginger Soup ($6) is an excellent choice. It is very refreshing and flavorful, thanks to the sweetness of the carrots and the smoothness of the texture. The garnish, a sprig of parsley, should not be disregarded. It explodes with a rich flavor that blends so well with the soup. I wanted to relish every drop and took my time savoring it and wishing for a few more sprigs.

My friends and I shared two of the most amazing salads. The ingredients were so fresh, as if they had just been picked from a garden.

The Quinoa Salad ($16) with baked tofu, seaweed, baby arugula, and micro greens, has a perfect balance of textures. The combination of baked tofu and the earthy and nutty quinoa is excellent.

The Kale Salad, a new addition to the menu, is another wonderful creation. You can really tell that the chef loves what he does. Some of the leaves were crispy and some uncooked. They blended well with the soft-boiled egg and glazed pancetta with maple syrup. The pancetta gave the salad a candied zest. It was an impressive combination of textures and flavors. Payard’s combinations are amazing. He manages to keep the flavors of each ingredient pure by respecting their integrity.

My friend chose the Classic Croque Monsieur ($14) instead of the Salmon Croque Monsieur ($18). It arrived with a nice accompaniment of organic mesclun mixed greens. The gruyère cheese seemed to want to ooze out and escape, but somehow managed to stay in place along with the French ham and béchamel sauce. I liked the crunchy and the crispy textures, along with the savory flavor.

I ordered the Braised Short Ribs ($23), and the aroma fills your senses. The meat was so tender that it falls off your fork. Dip it with a frite in the bordelaise sauce and with the first bite, you will taste an avalanche of flavors, all in harmony like those of an orchestra.

The ribs are slow-cooked for a few hours, along with many vegetables. The meat emanated a bouquet of flavors with scents reminiscent of the Riviera.

After having the ribs, I felt that FP Patisserie is where true classics really reign. You must remember that a pastry chef can also be a great culinary chef. Maybe it’s because pastry chefs tend to be more organized, precise, and very creative.

By now, it was almost closing time and so we decided to share one of chef Payard’s signatures: macaroons with mango sorbets. It was a cool and pleasing way to end our meal, after the avalanche of flavors we had just experienced.

FP Patisseries is one of the joint ventures between Payard and London-based restaurateur Marlon Abela of MARC (Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation) in New York City.

Welcome back, chef Payard.

FP Patisserie
(Upper East Side Location)
1293 Third Avenue (at 74th Street)
212-717-5252
www.payard.com
Serves breakfast, lunch, brunch, and tea, as well as dinner.
Hours:
Monday through Saturday: 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m.
Sundays: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.