If we were reviewing restaurants on the strength of bread and baked goods only, Maison Kayser would score a 10. This chain of award-winning boulangeries was founded in Paris in the late nineties, and now has nearly 100 locations around the world. New York already has four, and they only started two years ago. Le Pain Quotidien, you are officially on notice. Maison Kayser is better, and people can actually pronounce it. Sort of.
In most cases, Maison Kayser is best for when you need to pick up a baguette and an absurd French dessert to bring over to a friend's house for dinner. It's also a good spot to grab a cup of coffee and a chocolate-almond croissant before work. But this location also has a big dining room and serves brunch, which is why you see this review here today.
On any given weekend, this Upper East Side Maison Kayser looks like a Best Buy at 5am on Black Friday. The only difference is that instead of cheap LED TVs, these people are willing to kill each other over eggs and capers. The food is excellent - nearly everything on the menu is simple, delicious, and lighter than you might expect from French cuisine. But the room is often so full that it's uncomfortable, and that tends to bring out the worst in the Upper East Side fur coat crowd. The amazing thing is that the staff seems to know how to handle the clientele (maybe because they're French?), and everything runs pretty smoothly despite the chaos. And if you get there on the early side (before 1pm), the waits don't tend to be too crazy either. Put it this way, we've never let the crowds come between us and one of these on a Saturday afternoon. You shouldn't either.
Chocolate Almond Croissant
One of the best you'll find anywhere. It's buttery as hell, and the balance between almond and chocolate is perfect. Get one. No. Get two.
We usually order one of these glorious things for our table when we hit brunch here. It's basically orange cake with a thick gelatin glaze on top. It's amazing.
You'll find a bunch of egg options on the menu at Maison Kayser, ranging from simple soft boiled eggs, to eggs with salmon and capers, to eggs with asparagus. We'd recommend sticking to anything that comes with their house smoked salmon, and avoiding the tartines. Nearly everything comes with Tourte de Meule, a delicious sourdough-like bread.
There are two versions of this baked egg dish on the breakfast/brunch menu: Smoked Salmon and Parisian Ham. Both are excellent, but we're big on the Parisian Ham version, mostly because it comes topped with two small slice of bread and melted Gruyere. It's rich, but it's good.
A classic French quiche, with lardon, eggs, and Gruyere. We like it, but we like other things better. Especially the sweet things.
Bread Pudding French Toast
Speaking of sweet things, sweet Jesus this is good. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a bakery makes excellent French toast, but it is surprising how much restraint they show with the sugar here. It's not savory, but it's not dessert either. Order it.