Barely open a couple of weeks, the newest addition to Grand Avenue has already attracted connoisseurs of fine French pastries.
La Parisienne, located at 3249 Grand Ave., offers delicacies that one would expect to find in a traditional Parisian boulangerie and pâtisserie: several varieties of quiche (potato, leek, and ham), croques monsieur (with ham, salmon or bacon) and croques madame; baguettes; a dizzying variety of pastries, cookies and croissants; espresso drinks; and some heavenly chouquettes, those little clouds of puff pastry. New on the menu last week was a lychee mousse made with chocolate and ginger, as well as a colorful assortment of pâtes de fruits — little jewel-toned squares of fruit jellies rolled in sugar.
Hamal Belayadi, who works behind the counter, and manager Najib El Ferrouj pointed out what we saw inside the glass case and told us about the items lining the shelves: in addition to the pastries and sweets, there is a selection of French-made sauces, candies, chocolates, and caramels. Everything looks beautiful — artfully decorated fruit tarts, cakes, little crenelated canelés (made with rum), pain au chocolat — all of it.
The interior space is light and bright, painted white with gold accents. Lovely black-and-white photographs of Parisian scenes decorate one wall. There are other nice touches inside, including fresh flowers. Seating is minimal but comfortable, with three small tables inside and French-style cane chairs and tables out in front.
I’m glad I had a friend along who speaks French. Much of our conversation with La Parisienne’s award-winning Parisian chef, Karim Bedda, went back and forth between English and his native tongue. He made his way to the East Bay via Paris, Korea and Southern California. He said he felt there was a need here for a true pâtisserie. He told us that some customers at his previous location had shared their concern about things that were “too sweet,” so he adjusted his recipes to include less sugar.
The delicious pear and chocolate tart I sampled was not overly sweet at all, which made it possible to enjoy the flavor of the fruit, the chocolate, and the delicate crust. My companion chose to try the apricot and pistachio tart. The naturally sweet apricots paired perfectly with the texture and flavor of the pistachios. Two winners. Many more to try as time goes by.
La Parisienne is not the first French-style bakery in the East Bay, of course. Fournée opposite the Claremont Hotel on Domingo Avenue, run by Frank Sally, is much loved for its buttery pastries and elegant cakes. The treats at Masse’s in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto have a decidedly French spin. And a new bakery getting ready to open on College Avenue in the Elmwood from the La PanotiQ group, talks of following the “French culinary tradition.”
We were told that when you visit La Parisienne, “you will feel like you’re in France.” For those who grew up there, the pastries will “take you back to your childhood.” If this sounds tempting, go see for yourself — and enjoy a taste of Paris.
La Parisienne is at 3249 Grand Ave. (at Santa Clara Avenue), Oakland. Open 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Connect with the bakery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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