555 G Street, Downtown San Diego
Totes-adorbs, Euro-chic café, Le Parfait Paris, grand opened for business in the Gaslamp earlier this month. Depending on one’s viewpoint, the decor is either cold and cheerless, or stylish and minimal. One thing is certain: Le Parfait Paris has none of the Bohemian, thrown-together style that’s so typical of American coffee house bakeries. If it has a true failing, it’s that the downtown skyscraper canyon wants to cast the café’s interior into perpetual darkness.
Either way, if we can judge a café by its croissant (which we can), Le Parfait Paris passes muster. The company has plenty of experience, having long run a catering service out of a Mission Valley bakery where a talented French chef wears the big hat, and the croissants at the Gaslamp location are fully dialed in from the start.
Delicate, flakey outer layers give way to tender inner layers of laminated dough with a deep, bready flavor that speaks of carefully controlled fermentation. There’s some of that buttery richness typical of croissants, but the overall effect is more yeasty and toasty, with those subtle flavors not being buried. To be sure, it’s not as though Le Parfait’s croissant lacks butter, it’s just that the end product is more than a one-note fatfest.
Beyond the croissants, the display case holds a rainbow of macaroons, some filled with fruit patés, others with creams and chocolates. Cakes, Bavarians, tarts, and flans line the cold case, each shining like a jewel from glazes and gelatins. It’s heavy, sweet stuff, but quite fair to look upon.
Instead of a conventional espresso engine, the Le Parfait serves Nespresso, which is a bit of a head-scratcher at first. Nestle’s apportioned coffee pods usually appear in hotel rooms, and seeing a commercial-sized machine behind an American coffee bar is unusual. Still, the modus has many fans, and the lattes and cappuccinos at Le Parfait Paris are at least as good as Starbucks. The entire café will be a delight for any Euro pastry lovers, if only because the owners plan to keep the place open late enough for the after-dinner crowd to score coffee and pastry, or a glass of wine once the alcohol license comes through.