The wonderfully flaky, crisped exterior and wonderfully light interior… the scent of high quality, real Butter… it felt like time for another journey around L.A. in search of the classic French Croissant.
The plain Croissant is a tough thing to master. Even esteemed Bakeries around L.A. like Republique’s Pastry Bar and Gjusta and Huckleberry Cafe might make some fantastic baked goods, but when it comes to the plain, classic French Croissant, their versions are just unremarkable.
I’ve enjoyed my visits to Pitchoun! Bakery since it opened a while back (last year?) in Downtown L.A. It brought a nice authentic French Bakery to Downtown, and their pastries were OK.
When they first opened up, their Croissants were pretty good, slightly crisp (but not enough for my tastes) and a light interior. For our 3rd visit on this journey, their Croissants seem to have taken a step back. Perhaps it was an off-day, but their Croissants were soft and pillowy for the exterior and interior.
There was no crispness and it made for a rather unusual Croissant experience (from what I’m used to). Otherwise it tasted pretty fresh and airy. It just didn’t have any crispness. But given the other visits where it was slightly crisp, it might just be inconsistency or an off-day.
545 S Olive St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: (213) 689-3240
Proof Bakery is a great bakery for the Atwater Village area; I’ve had mixed results with their Croissants in the past, but enjoyed their Sandwiches. I love their rotating fresh Sandwich offerings.
Roasted Shishito Peppers Sandwich (Sauce Vert, Whipped Goat/Ricotta Spread, Watermelon Radish):
We had a Croissant Journey, but took a few side streets along the way. I love Shishito Peppers and couldn’t resist ordering this at Proof. It was fantastic! The Roasted Shishito Peppers were fragrant, generally not spicy (except for a random few spicy ones you get in a batch).
Add to that their ultra creamy Goat Cheese and Ricotta spread, and the crunchiness from the Watermelon Radish and you have the makings of a great sandwich.
This is the 5th time I’ve had Proof’s Croissants. It’s been a mixed bag at times. A couple of visits their Croissants were a bit limp and not crisp. Another time it was fine, and very good.
Today’s visit, their Croissant was slightly crisp, the interior was airy and soft, and it was better than Pitchoun’s. The one flaw was that it used a plain American Butter, which was fine, but lacked that deep flavor (much better than the Partially-Hydrogenated or Shortening Badness found at too many Bakeries in L.A.). This turned out to be the 2nd best Croissants we ate on this journey.
If they can be consistent like this visit’s version, then it’s a great Croissant to recommend and try if you’re nearby.
3156 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Tel: (323) 664-8633
I heard about this place multiple times on our old Chowhound board from some esteemed members years ago. I never got to try Anisette, but from what I heard, Chef Alain Giraud had some great dishes there, and it was home to many people’s favorite Croissant.
He moved over to Pacific Palisades and opened up Maison Giraud, and took his esteemed pastry chef with him.
I tried their Croissants a couple of times and they were our favorite (easily). It was perfect.
So for this 3rd visit, I checked with the front of the house and indeed Maison Giraud lost their pastry chef. Their Croissant still had that amazing French Normandy Butter taste - it is immediately apparent and reminded all of us why Proof’s felt lacking. There is a real, fragrant, great Butter taste, but different from what we usually eat as “Butter” in America.
But sadly, the exterior was only slightly flaky and it tasted too thick. The execution of the Croissant was inferior to the earlier visits we had prior to the pastry chef leaving.
I was so sad, but wanted to make sure, so:
Croissant (4th Visit):
For our 4th visit, the Croissant was the same as the 3rd visit: Maison Giraud has the Normandy Butter taste, but the execution is rough and lacking. It no longer had that perfect crisped exterior, that great flakiness that accompanied the beautiful interior butteriness.
There was also a petition to “Save Maison Giraud”: Apparently one of the development groups (same ones behind The Grove) is going to bulldoze, er, “redevelop” that neighborhood of Pacific Palisades and turn it into another exterior mall that Angelenos seem to not get enough of. So I guess The Grove Part 3? Kind of sad.
1032 Swarthmore Ave.
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Tel: (310) 459-7561
Chef Thomas Keller’s famous export of his Bouchon Bakery concept (with outlets in Northern California, Las Vegas and now here), I hadn’t tried one of Bouchon’s Croissants in years.
I’ve tried Bouchon’s Croissants probably about 6 times over the years at Vegas and Beverly Hills. On this visit, their Croissant felt worse than my previous visits:
It was barely crisp, not really flaky, and a bit dense. It also lacked that great buttery flavor. Rather disappointing.
I’ve been curious to learn more about Kouign-Amann since trying one at Republique earlier this year. Bouchon’s version was better than their Croissant (in terms of execution). It was lightly sweet and was much larger than Republique’s version.
235 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tel: (310) 271-9910
I’ve heard multiple people rave about Chaumont, but we’ve never been before. On our first visit, we’re greeted by a cute and elegant pastry display.
Black Cod Banh Mi (Black Cod, Cucumber, Daikon, Carrots, Cilantro, Mint, Spicy Mayo, Baguette):
Sorry, first a side trip… We’d been trying out various Banh Mi Sandwiches recently and I remembered the L.A. Times recommending Chaumont’s version. I was curious.
Sadly, it was rather unremarkable. The Black Cod was overcooked, and the seasoning was rather straightforward (salt, pepper). The combination of everything and their Baguette bread made this an expensive facsimile of a classic Banh Mi Sandwich you might know and love. At $13.50 + tax and tip, this isn’t something I want to order again.
So I took a bite and looked at everyone that came with us on this Croissant journey. Everyone had the same reaction.
The Croissant is shatteringly crisp on the exterior, and has this light, airy interior. But it also has a great French Butter scent and flavor that comes through with each bite! This was SO GOOD!
We had to try more pastries at this point, for “research” ;).
I can’t seem to find very many great Almond Croissants these days, but Chaumont’s was delicious. It lacks that magical, perfect quality of their plain Croissant, but it’s very good with a wonderful, fragrant Almond filling center.
Delicious custard, not overly sweet. The Choux dough is baked to a perfect doneness.
I’ve never had a Chouqette before but we all felt these were too sweet. They are small “cookies” made with Choux dough and sugar sprinkles.
Flourless Chocolate Cake:
There’s a delicious outer Chocolate shell which gives way to a chilled, slightly dense, but tasty Chocolate Cake interior. Not as “Chocolatey Amazing” as Gjusta’s absurd Pumpernickel Fudge Brownie, or Bulgarini’s fantastic deep Chocolate Gelato but tasty, nonetheless.
This was so good I had to return for another visit to make sure.
Croissant (2nd Visit):
Best Bite of the Day!
This was just as great as last time. It has this awesome superior crisped outside, and that really intense French Buttery interior that tastes so light and airy! This is just SO GOOD!
Note: We found out (the hard way) that taking Croissants To-Go (from all 5 bakeries) was a recipe for disaster. None of the Croissants we took from any of the bakeries retained their in-store taste. All of them got worse over time (by the time we got home and sampled some with friends a few hours later, they all were worse).
Chaumont is a huge surprise for me, and I’m glad I kept the bookmark to try this place after many FTC’ers on our old board recommended this place. They make an amazing Croissant and are the closest thing to what I’ve had in Paris. They are now my favorite Croissants in L.A.!
143 S Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Tel: (310) 550-5510
Thanks to all the great suggestions, it was a perfect time to go out and try these other places.
Jean-Luc Labat / Frogs Bakery
Thanks to @maudies5 for the suggestion, I stopped by the Santa Monica Farmers Market today (and it was a great excuse to get more Harry’s Berries ;)), in search of Jean-Luc Labat.
It turns out, I have eaten their Croissants before, last year! As soon as I met the friendly man and woman selling the pastries, I remembered the booth.
And in an interesting coincidence, I didn’t realize @paranoidgarliclover’s talk of Frog’s Bakery was Jean-Luc Labat(!), but it is. It’s the same operation, but at the Farmers Markets they want to use the chef’s name. You can order their goods from the corporate website - Frog’s Bakery.
So on this 2nd visit to Jean Luc-Labat, it tasted just like my first try last year: It’s pillowy, soft, airy, but with very little crispness for the exterior. The butter scent and aroma is light (not bad), but compared to Chaumont and Maison Giraud’s Croissants (with their French & Normandy Butters respectively) the flavor is lacking. It also doesn’t have enough of the shatteringly crisp exterior that makes Chaumont’s so awesome. But I’m glad I tried it. Thanks!
Jean-Luc Labat / Frog’s Bakery
At the Santa Monica Farmers Market
Arizona Ave & 3rd Street (3rd Street Promenade)
Santa Monica, CA
Demitasse / Sugarbloom Bakery
Thanks to @Haeldaur for the recommendation, I decided to check out Demitasse as well. Initially I was taken aback, since Demitasse is a Coffee Shop, not a Bakery. Then speaking with the manager, I found out they don’t make Croissants, but they are supplied by Sugarbloom Bakery.
Sugarbloom Bakery makes pastries and sells them to a variety of Coffee Shops around L.A. Helmed by Pastry Chef Sharon Wang, the L.A. native (via Taiwan) worked under Chef Thomas Keller at French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, and is now running Sugarbloom. I couldn’t wait to try it!
There is a very good, solid buttery taste as soon as you bite into the Croissant. It’s not as fragrant or glorious as Chaumont or Maison Giraud’s French Butters, but it’s more pronounced than Proof’s even.
The Croissant itself has a slight crispness for the exterior, and the inside is airy and well-made. I prefer Chaumont’s version by far, but the interior flavor was almost as good as Proof’s.
I hope one day Chef Sharon Wang decides to open up a brick & mortar Sugarbloom Bakery, where we might be able to try them directly out of the oven. I’d imagine they would be even better than being delivered to various Coffee Shops across town.
- 1149 Third Street, Santa Monica, CA
- 135 S San Pedro Street, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA
- 1542 N Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, CA
- 6363 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Grove, Los Angeles, CA
- 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA
- 3922 W Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, CA
- 55 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA
The Hart and the Hunter
7950 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA
And more Coffee Shops (on their website).
Coincidentally, prior to our sudden trip up to San Francisco, we had stopped by Chaumont.
Taking a bite, and it reminded me of why we love Chaumont’s Croissant so much: It’s flaky, crisp, fluffy on the inside and has that wonderful, French Butter taste.
But now that we were in San Francisco, it was time to try what many people call the “holy grail” for Croissants, at Tartine Bakery.
It seems like every single friend of ours that visits San Francisco (or is from there) has told us to visit Tartine. I’ve had it bookmarked for so long, but we just didn’t get a chance to ever go until now.
So with great anticipation we finally got a chance to visit. Showing up, there were only about 6 people in line (not bad). The pastry case looked wonderful already.
The first thing that struck us as odd was that the Croissant was burnt(!). But perhaps that little bit of burnt Croissant was on purpose and the taste was the most important thing.
The first bite revealed a light crispiness on the exterior, but a slightly dry, airy interior. There was still a little bit of soft pastry inside, but it was also dryish.
And then biting into the middle portion, and indeed that burnt section of the Croissant was definitely burnt. You got this bitter, burnt taste that really ruined that middle portion of the Croissant unless you peeled it away. Looking into the case, I noticed the entire batch of Croissants had a dark / burnt top!
Definitely far worse than Chaumont and Proof.
Banana Cream Tart (Dark Chocolate Coated Flaky Pastry, Caramel, Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream):
But then, thankfully due to a recommendation from the staff, we also ordered their Banana Cream Tart. And I’m so glad we did!
Easily one of the Best Bites of 2017 so far for me, imagine this flaky Pastry Shell, but coated with a layer of Valrhona Dark Chocolate, cooled and hardened so it gives each bite a nice little crunch-snap!, and filled with Bananas, Caramel and Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream.
It was incredible! SO GOOD!
One of the best offerings from any bakery we’ve been to in the past few years!
So overall, Tartine’s famous Croissant was a huge disappointment, but our visit was redeemed with the amazing Banana Cream Tart.
600 Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel: (415) 487-2600
Next up, we went to a place recommended by @ipsedixit, and it was voted Bon Appetit’s Best New Bakery in America 2016(!). We couldn’t wait to try this place.
Walking in, it’s a humble neighborhood Bakery, a small little shop, and there’s a nice homey feel to it.
Taking a bite, and you get this amazing blend of a light crisped exterior, flakiness, and soft, pillowy interior. There’s a beautiful, noticeable buttery taste, it almost tastes like the French Butter we love at places like Chaumont and Maison Giraud, however, it’s more refined and less noticeable. There’s a subtle sweetness to it as well (in a good way) that dances off the tongue.
It turns out Arsicault uses 2 types of Butter for their Croissant, a French Butter and an Irish Butter, so that’s why it has a wonderful buttery taste that we like, but it’s not as pronounced because of the blend.
Either way, this was phenomenal! So delicious and probably tied for my favorite Croissant in the U.S.!
I love Almond Croissants, so we had to order one of these as well. Sadly (as you can see from the pics), the Almond Croissants were burnt.
Looking back into the case as we left, and the whole batch was similarly burnt / dark colored. Maybe it was a bad batch, but it was disappointing.
The Almond Croissant was burnt throughout so it was slightly bitter, but even the Almond Paste filling within, while lightly sweet and fragrant, lacked the beautiful flavors we enjoyed at other places in our Croissant Journey.
The versions I’ve run into of Kouign Amann have been so drastically different, I have no idea what the “traditional / ideal” version is supposed to be like. The last one we had at Republique was fine, but this version at Arsicault was crazy. It had copious amounts of Sugar - too sugary for my tastes - and also very buttery. It was crisped and crunchy on the outside.
Croissant, Part 2:
Their Croissant was so good we had to order another one. I wanted to take it to-go and snack on it as we walked around San Francisco…
But then as we both stared at the beautiful golden crust, and stared at each other, suddenly the Croissant was gone within a matter of seconds! Just a flurry of Croissant flakes were left on the plate. Oh well.
Arsicault Bakery is a stunner, and they definitely have made our favorite Croissants in San Francisco so far! Definitely worth a visit (thanks again @ipsedixit).
397 Arguello Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tel: (415) 750-9460
Arsicault was so good, we had to confirm how it compared to our current favorite, Chaumont. So right off the plane at “wonderful” LAX, off we went to Chaumont…
Chaumont Bakery (Revisit)
Visually, Arsicault’s is the prettier of the two, but taking a bite… ah that amazing, deep, moving French Butter taste comes pouring through.
There’s this amazing, deeper, purer French Butter flavor that comes through with Chaumont’s Croissant, along with its crisp exterior and airy, soft interior.
But I’d say I liked Arsicault’s just as much for it’s lighter balance of flavors, but still having a great buttery taste.
And then the Almond Croissant. Ah! Chaumont’s is so good! A great crunchy exterior, and the Almond filling was nuttier, more aromatic, and it just was brighter than Arsicault’s (and it wasn’t burnt like Arsicault’s). Definitely a must order if you like Almond Croissants.
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake:
And it looked like Chaumont had a new offering we hadn’t seen before, their Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. A beautiful presentation, with a little excessive use of edible Gold Flake. They use a Valrhona Dark Chocolate outer shell that’s been chilled, to make a nice little crunchy exterior, with a silky, creamy Hazelnut Cream filling inbetween layers of Chocolate Cake. It was delicious!
Overall, we were happy to finally try 2 of San Francisco’s best bakeries. After trying the famed Tartine, I think Chaumont, Proof and Arsicault were far superior. Chaumont’s Croissant remains our favorite in terms of pure deep taste, but Arsicault is right up there, and easily our “1A”.
143 S Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Tel: (310) 550-5510