My breath caught when I saw the clean layers of vanilla seed-dotted ganache, sponge cake, and deep purple berry gelée on Spotted SF. I’m momentarily swept back into the Shinsaibashi branch of Dalloyau in Osaka where I gazed upon (and subsequently bought) slices of precisely layered L’Opéra and Convoitise, a seductively layered concoction of raspberry and cassis mousses. When I saw the word pâtisserie sitting underneath the picture, I knew I was going to b pâtisserie during the coming weekend.
I visited the pastry shop with my mom on a windy but sunny Sunday afternoon. Upon entering, she immediately comments on the heavy, thick smell of butter (she’s not a fan of butter and prefers lighter sweets without it). To me, it is the warmest way a shop can welcome a dessert fanatic.
B pâtisserie is bright and sunny. An expansive white marbled counter sweeps across the room, housing plates of decadent European pastries such as bostock, kugeloph, kouign amann and elegant desserts such as vanilla caramel millefeuille and yogurt citrus verinne. Behind the counter, pastry chef Belinda Leong cuts away the outer sides of a cake where the chocolate glaçage has spilled over while an assistant preps the croissants in the open kitchen. A small gust of wind sneaks in every so often as people flow into the shop. Patrons chatter away over sweets and coffee at the two-seater tables while I station myself in front of the glass cases, pondering what to order outside of the famous kouign amann. A sucker for pretty things, I take the Grande Macaron, Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Vanilla Choux, and a cup of black iced coffee to cleanse my palate in between.
I take apart the puffy kouign amann first, peeling off chunks of flaky sweet pastry to share with my mom, covering my fingers with a shiny gleam of grease in the process. It’s the ultimate composition of flavor that only butter, sugar, and more butter can give you. Caramelized crusted crisp gives way to velvety pastry layers moistened by liquid butter inside. It’s intensely rich but not too sweet. Comforting. Inviting. The taste of happiness and sunshine itself. I take a sip of the black coffee to prompt myself for the next dessert. It’s amazingly smooth and silky, and I cannot detect any hint of sourness prevalent in most straight coffees.
The vanilla cake is pleasant, but not as light as it looked. The vanilla ganache is heavy, its texture similar to white chocolate buttercream at room temperature. Its sponge cake is moist bordering on wet, although its more neutral flavor works to balance the sweeter vanilla cream and slightly tart blueberry layer. My favorite part is the fresh whole blueberries sitting in between the deceptively thin layers. I’m a little disappointed when I find that the sign with the shop’s logo was not made of chocolate, a practice I’ve always came across in most pastry shops.
I admit I ordered the large macaron sandwich because it plays with the flavors of rose and raspberry made famous by Pierre Hermé’s ispahan (although this doesn’t have lychee). The light-gold spiral shell is grainy and flavors of almond come through cleanly. Its sweetness is just right, but my heart crushes when I see hints of a hollow in between the eggshell crust and the cookie inside. The rose mousseline however, is all soft floral, perfect with the juicy raspberries. Its texture reminded me of JELL-O chocolate pudding, which is novel.
The last to go is the chocolate vanilla choux pastry, piped generously high with vanilla Chantilly cream and dotted with mini squares of sablé breton and chocolate rice pearls. Although ridiculously pretty, I’m afraid this is the one true letdown. The choux pastry has lost all of its crisp outside and is chewy and difficult to tear apart inside. The column of vanilla cream is thick and milky, but the vanilla taste is not perceptible despite it being dotted so visibly with seeds. I don’t reach the chocolate part until the bottom, where a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate cream is spread. It’s a nice contrast with the vanilla, and I only wished that there was more of it so it was truer to its name. The buttery bites and chocolate pearls are nice to look at, but it doesn’t add flavor to the dessert.
While the last piece dampens my spirits, I’ll more than happily come back for the other desserts that had sold out before I had a chance to sample them (10 hour apple tart) and the kouign amann. I leave the shop reluctantly, wanting to believe this can become my favorite pâtisserie outside of all the outstanding ones in Japan. On the other hand, my mom breathes a sigh of relief for being able to finally escape from the butter drenched air.
2821 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94115