Spanish Mackeral with ginger, garlic, baby bok choy, and shitake mushrooms.
A couple weekends ago Malia and I headed up on the Bolt Bus to visit Jenny for a JAM reunion! We were super excited. Jenny, being the planning queen that she is, made us a reservation at Payard Patisserie and Bistro during New York's restaurant week. Malia and I had gone to La Rue 123 during the Inaguration Week in DC, and had passed up their special menu. We were not going to make the same mistake this time! For $35 you can get an appetizer, entree, and dessert! We double checked the regular menu, and were pleasantly surprised to see that most of the items on the special menu were also on the regular menu. This is a good sign, in that the restaurant isn't just putting some cheap cut of meat on the special menu to pass if off on those in search of a cheaper meal.
To start, Malia and I ordered the lentil soup, while Jenny and Travis ordered the salmon tartare. Travis loves french onion soup, so he got that as well. Our server came by with a basket of bread, from which we all chose their wheat roll. Being after 9pm, we were all famished and glad to have something to nibble on. The roll was rather interesting - it was super crunchy, almost like a really large cracker. The dough was slightly sweet and hardy, but I generally prefer my rolls on the softer side.
Our appetizers came out shortly thereafter. Surprisingly, this was the first time I had eaten a pureed lentil soup, I am used to the texture of the individual beans. The soup was creamy, a little on the salty side, served with croutons. The dish was nice, but nothing extraordinary. Jenny and Travis were pleased with the flavor of the salmon. Travis' french onion soup had great carmelized, salty flavors. He felt it was a little on the sweet side, but I like that component about this particular soup. The sharp, salty gruyere was the perfect compliment.
French Onion Soup.
The entree options were a lot slimmer - roast chicken or spanish mackeral. I have cooked a lot of chicken in my days, and thus I tend to steer away from chicken when I go out to eat. The spanish mackeral looked like a good option, served with baby bok choy and mushrooms. I once had a very bad incident with spanish mackeral and a certain salt mound method of cooking (Jenny and Malia can attest to the awful nature of this dish), but I decided to give this fish a second chance. The rest of the group opted for the fish as well.
The fish was presented in four small sections, complimented with steamed baby bok choy, a ginger sauce, and wild mushrooms. Jenny picked around the mushrooms. The fresh minced ginger was such a refreshing addition, and enhanced the flavors of the flaky white fish. The skin could have been crisped up a little more in my opinion, but still it was a solid meal.
Chocolate creme brulee with candied orange - divine!
Don't worry I have saved the best for last! Payard is probably best known for its wonderful pastries, tarts, cakes, and candies. The menu indicated that we could have any of the pastries in the patisserie case. Well, by 11pm that case is quite sad looking, with a couple eclairs and small pastries looking very unappetizing. Fortunately our waiter told us that the creme brulee was also being offered. Malia is not usually a fan of creme brulee, but after looking over at our neighbors devouring the dish, she decided to try it along with the rest of us.
This was no ordinary creme brulee! The chef created a chocolate version with candied orange peel. I love the crunching sound you hear as you dig your spoon into the crisp sugar. The textural play on crisp and creamy is wondeful. The chocolate custard was simply amazingly silky, rich, with deep chocolate flavors. The candied orange peel delivered a slightly chewy, sweet burst of citrus. The ramekin of custard could have easily fed two people, and yet I easily could have eaten the entire thing. Somehow I managed to restrain myself.
The creme brulee easily elevated the entire meal. I would certainly come back to Payard, but perhaps next time just for dessert.
2 out of 3 JAMs
1032 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10021