Payard Pâtisserie

View of take out counter from hallway

Caesars Palace (last visit: October 2012).
Bakery and Restaurant.

Las Vegas is well known for its one-upsmanship. It's been a grand old tradition to see who could have the biggest, the most expensive, the most popular. Lately, this has become a wonderful thing, as hotels vie with each other to see who can offer the best shows, the best restaurants...and the best bakeries. Payard Pȃtisserie is a latecomer in this category. It consists of a small sit down restaurant and a separate carry out location next door.

The Menu
At the sit down restaurant, Payard offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast, choices include eggs, quiche, croque monsieur or madame, or a simple continental breakfast buffet. For lunch you can also get soups, sandwiches, pastas, and a few more ambitious dishes. Dinner remains simple, although meat, fish and fowl are offered.  Of course, pastries are always available.

The carry out location, open until late at night, offers an abbreviated selection, but there are still a lot of choices. To me, pastries are the most compelling choices, but some good sandwiches are offered as well.

The Atmosphere
Very informal. The sit down restaurant was very small, with a few tables surrounding a small food preparation area; there was room for about 30 people. Service has been inconsistent: sometimes fast, friendly and efficient; other times, glacially slow.

The first couple of times I went, the carry out store was a marvel of disorganization. There was a long counter, with displays of food on the left, cash registers in the middle, then coffee and more food on the right. Get in line at the cash register to order, then move to the right while you wait. There were a few tables just outside, but they were usually taken during busier times. Many people didn't know this was the process, and even those who did couldn't figure out exactly where the line should be. It also wasn't made clear that one should move to the right after ordering, so the ordering line and the waiting areas tended to intermingle, along with browsers who were simply trying to get a look at what was inside the display cases before they got in line. Pretty chaotic.

Since then, crowds have died down a bit, and things have settled down. It still helps if you know where to stand before, during, and after ordering, but it's no longer a big deal.

The Carry Out Store
Some of the desserts available at the Payard takeout counter...

...and an almond croissant.

My introduction to Payard was at the carry out. I ordered pain au chocolat and an almond croissant. The pain au chocolat was a typical rectangular pillow shape. The dough was crackly crisp on the outside, but moist and chewy on the inside. Little rectangles of very good dark chocolate were generously spread within. It was very good. Most almond croissants I've had have been similar to regular croissants, but with a hunk of marzipan in the middle and some sliced almonds on the top. Payard's version was different. Almonds and marzipan were mixed throughout the dough. The result was a flaky but much denser version. It was delicious! I also ordered a latte...but got plain black coffee...not a happy camper. However, the coffee was perfect for me: smooth and mild.

I came back several times for pastries and such. The Vienne ("flaky sable with dark chocolate mousse, orange marmalade and a soft caramel center") was excellent. Nearly as good was a big cookie that I've heard called a Swiss chew; it's made with chocolate, nuts and meringue, resulting in a crunchy/chewy/moist combination that is hard to describe but hard to forget.

Late one evening, I ordered one of those delicious almond croissants and took it back to my hotel room. It was stale. Not just a little bit dry. Stale. Hard. Really stale. I guess I should have known better than to order a breakfast pastry at night, but it's inexcusable for a place such as Payard to sell such trash. Major demerits.

Yet another carry out excursion found me ordering a croque monsieur. This is the French version of a grilled cheese sandwich, with the addition of ham. The cheese (Gruyère, I think) was on top of the bread, and toasted until almost crisp - too much so, I thought. The ham was chewy and good; the bread likewise. I had expected Béchamel sauce on top, but it wasn't included in this version. Overall, a good sandwich, but not in the same class as the one served at Bouchon.

Lastly, I've tried a number of their sandwiches, such as Le Fermier: turkey, cheese, greens, tomato and dressing, on a semi-soft baguette. My initial impression: it wasn't fantastic, but I'd order it again. I'm glad I followed my own advice. The second time I ordered it, I had it hot; it was excellent. I've found this to be true of other sandwiches (such as the Cuban press) as well: order it hot, even if you won't be eating it for a while. The heating process blends the ingredients a bit, and makes the bread/roll crisper.

I wish I could say the same for the Iced Caramel Macchiatto I ordered. The coffee used as a base had the second most burnt taste of any cup I've had. Lots of overly sweet caramel helped mask the flavor, but I certainly wouldn't order this again.

Meals at the Restaurant
Breakfast and lunch are simple affairs in this small restaurant, with its tiny kitchen right in the middle. If you've had the croque madame at Bouchon, this version is different, having much less béchamel sauce. Still, it's very good. Good bread is crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. There's a good balance between cheese, ham, egg, bread and sauce.

Another visit found me trying their continental breakfast buffet. This is a very simple affair, with cereal, yogurt, lox, bagels, cream cheese, and their excellent Viennoiserie (croissants and such). Come hungry!

Baked goods of almost any kind are excellent at Payard Pâtisserie. Breakfasts are also good, albeit simple. There are so many good pâtisseries it's hard to pick the best, but Payard is certainly a contender.

The Bill
Pastries are around $4 each for croissants and the like, and around $6 for the fancier tarts, eclairs and such. A latte will set you back $4. Expect a full breakfast at the restaurant to run around $20, plus tax and tip.

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