Francois Payard must pay Philippe Bertineau in gold bars or know some dark, ghastly secret about the man, because it is astonishing that this gentle-mannered, unassuming yet undeniably gifted chef has remained in the kitchen at Payard Patisserie since its inception. Bertineau's sauteed rouget with Persian-cucumber remoulade, potato tourte layered with goat's-milk brie, sauteed skate with curried cauliflower puree, and braised leg with trumpet mushroom-stuffed loin of rabbit are first and second courses that wonderfully match the artistry of Payard's universally touted thirds. It is easily one of the best meals you can have on the Upper East Side. After toiling for others for years, Payard got to know something other restaurateurs don't about keeping staff. Or maybe he just locks Philippe up in the basement at night.
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