October 28, 2019 | BITE: My Journal
The Crustmaster Settles at a New Address
The peach tart comes on a rustic crust with a side of pastry cream.
President Obama called Bill Yosses the Crustmaster. When Chancellor Angela Merkel came to dinner at the White House, he served strudel: phyllo, farmer’s cheese, golden raisins, and a little apple. His holiday gingerbread White House was placed on a full-size fireplace made entirely of springerle cookies.
Check out the painting on the wall. Does it remind you of vintage eastside restaurats?
Partner Bill Yosses stops at our table to reminisce about career moments we all shared.
When he left Washington Yosses planned to devote himself to food literacy and the culinary arts, and for the first time in the 11 years they have known each other, to live with his husband, Charlie Jandusay Fabella Jr., a teacher. Now here they both are at Palais by Perfect Pie, an all-day restaurant and bakery on East 61st Street in the narrow space that used to be Jean Jacques Rachou’s Le Lavendou.
The oval mirrors on the wall pick up odd reflections.
The room has a ladies-who-lunch charm in its pale green walls, the fussy embossed paper and a flowery orchard, reflected above in the private dining space.
Enter slowly so you can study the pastries in the vitrine before settling at a table.
Descending the stairs from the street to the below-sidewalk level, we stop to study the pastry display. Doesn’t everyone? “Maybe,” I venture, “we should have dessert first and then decide if we’re still hungry for dinner?” Too daring, I suppose.
The Palais crew take your order. That’s Yosses’ husband Charlie Jandusay Feballa Jr. at the entrance.
Our dinner companion Hiroko asks the chef about how he prepares the brnzino.
Our friends, already seated, smile and we all study the tight little menu that offers five appetizers $15 to $22, three salads $12 to $16, seven main courses $26 to $24, and $22 for the burger with pickled vegetables and a side of fries. “Let’s order different dishes and trade,” I suggest, “so we can taste more.” We’re all used to that drill.
The octopus has a uniquely soft texture and comes with a citrus salade alongside.
Dana will have the braised octopus with green beans, black olives and orange in a caper-raisin sauce. The creature has an unusual texture. I try to imagine what the kitchen did to get that astonishing pudding softness. Hiroko will start with the vegetarian seasonal harvest salad with citrus and shards of parmesan.
The Palais Royale salad is topped with duck prosciutto and grilled peaches, and goat cheese on brioche toast.
I ordered a small portion of cavatelli with autumn vegetables but they kitchen sent out the $22 size.
The Palais Royale salad with duck prosciutto, grilled peaches and goat cheese on brioche toasts will go to Richard. I’m starting with the cavatelli pasta tossed with ale green and cream-colored cauliflower – I especially like the pale blonde look of it and the taste, too. I try not to eat more than my share.
The salmon sits on ras-el-hanout coucous with a sauce vièrge.
The ras-el-hanout couscous lends its spiciness to my salmon – not too cooked, I requested when ordering, and it’s only a little bit too well done. The duck breast with roasted plums, Swiss chard and lavender is tough to cut and tough to chew. The branzino Provencale with artichoke barigoule, fennel and orange is a large cut, cooked exactly the way Hiroko likes it.
The branzino Provencale is served with artichoke barigoule, fennel and orange.
The coq au vin is cooked with red wine, bacon, mushrooms and cippolini onions.
The small coq au vin bird has been cut into many pieces and cooked with bacon, mushrooms and cipollini onions. It’s piled high on a swath of buttery Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Several evenings later we’ll have it again along with the day boat sea scallops and a Palais burger.
We ask for the fries on our burger to be dark and crisp and that’s how they came.
I ask for the fries extra dark and extra crisp and that’s exactly how they come. I’m impressed. I had meant to order the aligot potatoes with raclette cheese, and forgot. But we’ll be back and one night dinner could be just salads and sides.
A week later I’m back with another friend. Jean Jacques Rachou comes by to say hello. Le Lavandou was his domain. Rachou made headlines when he walked out of La Cote Basque in a rage because health inspectors arrived during lunch. He never went back. Now he’s one of the partners here. Could that be why the liquor license has yet to arrive?
Follow Yosses pastry rules in this cookbook, Perfect Finish.
I remember Yosses from the Polo at The Westbury (click here to read Shooting for Stars at the Polo), and later from, Bouley and Montrachet. Our companion tonight shared a stint with him at Tavern on the Green. Friends and I visited him in The White House. He was working on Michelle Obama’s Healthy Food Initiative. He gave us a tour of the pastry kitchen and took us out to the garden to visit the beehives. “Whatever pie you like, he will make it and it will be the best pie you have ever eaten,” Obama said.
Yosses resigned from his White House job in June 2014 recounting the experience in West Wingers: Stories from the Dream Chasers Change Makers and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House.
I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie but it’s the season now with Thanksgiving just ahead.
It took a while for the apple tart to arrive and it was not properly warmed.
Palais does an expert pumpkin pie, very classic, and chocolate pie sorcery, but I prefer the apple galette. And I’ll finish what’s left of the raspberry tart. We watch, shocked, as captains carry desserts from the vitrine on their small circles of paper in their bare hands to the kitchen for plating. “It doesn’t look proper,” one of my friends says. “They should carry them on a tray.”
The raspberry tart was a perfect jewel. We shared it, of course.
I don’t go to dinner most nights thinking of dessert. But here I do. I feel transported to another world here on the Upper East Side. I enjoy the escape. You should abandon your diet, too.
134 East 61st Street between Lexington and Park avenues. 646 491 0247. Monday to Friday 7 am to 9 pm. Saturday 11 am to 9 pm. Closed on Sunday.
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