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Dining

Payard offers an intense French experience

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Payard’s tomato mozzarella salad
Photo: Beverly Poppe

If this place was easier to find, it would have a line out the door all day long. As it is, you can stand directly in front of the pâtisserie portion of the operation and not be aware there's a cozy, comfortable and kick-ass 40-seat bistro adjacent to all those wonderful pastries and chocolates.

When Payard Bistro opened in late 2007, world-renowned pastry chef Francois Payard, ably aided by executive chef Gregory Gorreau, foresaw a classic, three-meal-a-day bistro leavened with a smattering of cutting-edge desserts, featuring such delicious oddities as olive-oil ice cream and black-olive macaroons with squid ink. Dinner proved to be a flop (there are plans to try again in September), and after too many fanny packers left scratching their heads over pomegranate-poached pears with Cabrales cheese and Szechwan pepper ice cream, management decided to concentrate on what this tiny spot does better than any in town: tried and true intense French.

Payard's Mediterranean sea bass

Details

Payard
At Caesars Palace, 731-7110. Daily, 6:30-3 p.m.

By intense French I mean perfect eggs Benedict — two poached yolks straddling a moist, flaky croissant, napped with the most ethereal hollandaise this side of Gay Paree. Or a lighter-than-air, custardy quiche — so smooth, so full of egg flavor, yet it seems to evaporate on your tongue. Or a chocolate-Nutella banana crepe that will make you weep.

All of these are served in a bright white and yellow room wrapped around that aforementioned crepe station. As good as the breads, pastries and various brunch items are (including what might be the best omelet in town), it's the seasonal, prix fixe lunch that should grab your attention. Three courses for $21, including either a vine-ripened tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella or shrimp Romesco (good sized shrimp in a bright, fresh tomato-almond sauce), followed by either a nice hunk of sea bass over ratatouille or an impeccably roasted poussin (baby chicken/Cornish hen). To finish, a Chef's Daily Dessert is offered that, regardless of what they send out, will be the best version of its kind you've ever tasted. Food this good at this price should be illegal.

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