Restaurant: Chez Christophe Chocolaterie & Patisserie
Last Visited: April 16, 2013
Location: Burnaby, BC (North Burnaby)
Address: 4712 Hastings Street
Transit: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Phone: (604) 428-4200
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Owner/Pastry Chef Christophe Bonzon
- Husband and wife operation
- Modern French pastries/desserts
- Upscale desserts
- High quality ingredients
- House made
- Baked daily
- Limited seating
- No table service
- Vegan options
- Gluten free options
- Eat in/Take out
- Gifts to go
- Custom cake orders
- Tues-Sat 8am-6pm
- Closed Sunday and Monday
- Twitter: @Chez_Christophe
**Recommendations: Double Baked Croissant with Pecan Maple Syrup, Douceur Canadienne (Maple Pecan Tart), Pecan Maple Syrup Macaron, Noix de Coco et Passion Chocolate
He did it! He opened, and I couldn’t be happier for my friend Christophe and his wife Jess. I’ve known Chris since he moved to Vancouver, BC a couple years ago and his dream was always to open his own pastry shop. After 10 years of working hard, his dream has become a reality.
His last position in the city was Executive Pastry Chef at award winning fine dining restaurant Cin Cin Ristorante + Bar in downtown, but his new home is now Chez Christophe in North Burnaby. He might not be as convenient for those in downtown, but he is refreshing to the Burnaby Heights area. It is easily accessible by bus (bus stop stops right in front of his store) and there is no other option for this level of French style pastries and desserts in the neighbourhood.
Swiss chocolatier Chris was professionally trained in his native Switzerland, and he has also worked in France and Australia under some of Europe’s grand masters. Last year he was selected as one of the 12 Canadian Pastry Chefs to compete for the prestigious World Chocolate Masters in Paris, but unfortunately he was not considered a Canadian resident for long enough and he could not compete. It was a political heartache and disappointment, but I’m confident his opportunity will come again.
Chocolate is his passion, but he also specializes in Viennoiseries (Parisian baked goods), modern French cakes (individual and whole), macarons and of course hand made chocolates and chocolate bars. His chocolate art sculptures are considered amongst the world’s best and he sometimes has them on display at his shop.
Chez Christophe is an 8 seat no table service dessert boutique, therefore it is not necessary to make a day out of it. It is ideal for take-out, gifts, or custom orders, but there are a variety of things to eat on the spot.
I was overdue for a congratulatory visit and timing was perfect with the 2nd Annual Crave the Heights coming up on April 23-25. I rarely ever try places in the early stages and not everything was quite where it should be yet, but it’s sure on its way.
Chris opened his brand new chocolaterie and patisserie only a month ago so things are still in the works. I know what he is capable of and I even asked him to make my sister’s wedding cake, so I am truly a fan of his work – friend or not. He is very talented, but I have high expectations for him and not everything was at “Christophe standards” yet. I had my favourites and I know he is still tweaking recipes. I tried it during the soft opening stages, therefore let this post be a preview of the store and offerings. This post is not a “final judgement call” of his pastries and desserts.
The style is similar to Thomas Haas (who is also his local mentor) and his prices are around the same too. The menu is different and he has his own style which is traditional French, but with modern flavours. He will be using chocolate from Switzerland and France (still waiting for shipment) as well as local and seasonal ingredients.
For Crave the Heights, Chez Christphe offers a 3 course $15 set menu – see here. You might know how I feel about set menus (see here), so I tried a whole bunch of his other desserts and pastries. Since this is a no table service shop with limited seating, customers coming for Crave can conveniently take items to go and they will be boxed up.
Store photos from Tourism Burnaby.
On the table:
- Plain $2.50
- The best judgement of a croissant is always to try the plain butter croisant, but my favourite is the almond croissant.
- In Vancouver Thomas Haas is notorious for his must try almond croissant, but it is nice to see pastry chefs exercising their creativity and introducing their own flavours.
- Chris is still playing around with butter varieties, so the croissants are in the process of changing. This is not really representable of what they will be like.
- Although the croissant recipe is getting some tweaking, it won’t matter for this one because it’s double baked and filled.
- I loved this so much! It was creative and the use of maple was a nice nod to Canadian culture.
- It was caramelized all over the top and bottom and there was a nice crunch when I bit down on it.
- The inside was tender and very moist with a slight chew and it was generously filled with an almond and pecan cream.
- The croissant pastry was flaky and the filling moist and crumbly and it wasn’t too sweet and I could taste the pecan and maple equally.
- It would be even more amazing if the top was covered with pecan pieces, but I could see that being a costly addition.
- As mentioned, Chris is still playing around with butter varieties and baking times, so the croissants are in the process of changing.
- This is not really representable of what they will be like, but the chocolate filling will remain the same.
- It took the shape of a traditional croissant rather than a typical pain au chocolat which is usually square shaped.
- The croissant did not shatter when I bit into it and it wasn’t quite as flaky or caramelized in colour as I would like, but the structure was nice.
- I couldn’t get an intense buttery flavour and it was slightly dry, so I wasn’t keen on it and thus I’m happy he is working on the recipe.
- The membranes were nice and thin, but it’s hard to tell when a croissant is filled.
- Traditionally pain au chocolat has one or two bars of chocolate, but in this case Chris made his own chocolate and hazelnut filling.
- Chris uses a mixture of dark chocolate, home made caramelized hazelnut paste, and toasted hazelnut pieces as his filling.
- The chocolate and hazelnut filling tasted like a high quality Nutella and I could bite into little pieces of hazelnuts here and there which I loved.
- It reminded me of the centre of a Ferrero Rocher.
- It wasn’t too sweet and it was actually my favourite part of the croissant. The croissant has more potential.
- If you are in Vancouver, I also recommend the pain au chocolate at Beaucoup Bakery – see here.
- $1.80 each or Box of 6 for $9.95
- I’m very particular with macarons – see my Things to Look for in a Macaron.
- These are considered small for Vancouver standards, but this is typically the size of them in France.
- They are made bite sized (2 bites max) because they are traditionally so sugary and sweet that a bite is enough.
- I liked that they were light and pastel in colour and not heavy with dyes, but I’m not sure how consistant they are.
- Pecan Maple Syrup Macaron
- He has this flavour combination down, and I really enjoyed this.
- It had a crisp shell and moist and slightly chewy inside.
- I could taste the ground almonds and not just sugar and it wasn’t too sweet even being maple flavoured.
- The filling was white chocolate maple ganache which I always prefer to buttercream (the more affordable choice).
- The feet were even and not spreading horizontally and the shell was smooth.
- I could taste the maple more and in the middle of the ganache was a tiny piece of pecan.
- I wish there were pecan bits or crumbs throughout the white chocolate ganache, but I would still get this again.
- Pistachio Macaron
- Pistachio is my favourite macaron flavours.
- Everything was the same with this one except the shell wasn’t crisp, so I’m not sure about consistency of macarons.
- The pistachio flavour was mild for me so I would have liked it stronger.
- The filling was a pistachio white chocolate ganache which again is better than pistachio butter cream, but I still wanted more pistachio.
- Cinnamon cream, gala apple mousse $4.30 (Gluten free option)
- Along with the macarons and chocolates, this is another gluten free option.
- A verrine can be sweet or savoury and it is traditionally from France.
- It is made of layers of ingredients served in a small glass.
- Usually I see verrines with layers of colour, so this one wasn’t as eye catching but still good.
- It was tricky to eat without a tiny spoon and due to how it was presented.
- It was hard to get some of everything so I recommended having alternative layers of cream and mousse, so it was almost like a parfait.
- This tasted exactly like apple cider with a hint of liquor in a creamy mousse form.
- I could taste the liquor immediately (dark rum), but it wasn’t a boozy dessert.
- The cider flavours of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg were also obvious and it was a very light, but flavourful dessert.
- The apple mousse was not that tart or very thick.
- It was quite light, and the cinnamon cream was heavier, but not a custard and I don’t think it was thickened with any or much egg.
- The cinnamon cream was rich, sweet and very concentrated and it was where most of the flavour was.
- It was strong with apple cider spices and quite potent, but it had a slightly greasy mouth feel for me because of all the cream.
- There was some home made compote with poached minced apple and dark rum, but it wasn’t a defined layer so it was unexpected.
- It was a very thin layer too so the minced apples were few and I wish the ratio of layers were a bit more even.
- It was topped with a gluten free crumble made from almond flour and it was a bit chewy, so I’m not sure if it would be crisper if it was placed just before serving.
- I would have loved some actual almond nuts for crunch and flavour.
- It was good, but not something I would have to re-order.
- Lemon curd, pistachio sponge, on a sweet pastry base $5.20
- People like this dessert, but it was tough love from me.
- I loved the lemon curd, but together with the pistachio sponge-like cake, called Pain de Genes (almond cake), it didn’t quite work out as well.
- Pistachio is one of my favourite flavours in dessert too, so I was really rooting for this one.
- The lemon curd was very bright and tangy with a nice zing that hit you immediately, but it was just too aggressive and tart for the pistachio-almond cake.
- It was very rich and made with lemon, sugar, eggs and butter and the flavour was intense.
- It was creamy and had structure without any use of pectin or gelatin which I loved, but I wanted it on its own.
- It would be great in a lemon tart, but he uses a different lemon curd for his lemon tart which I haven’t tried yet.
- I couldn’t taste the pistachio flavour (Turkish pistachios) until the very end and it was a very good and moist pistachio-almond cake, but better separate.
- I know a lot of pastry chefs prefer Sicilian pistachios which are pricier than Turkish or Californian, but I agree with Chris that the Turkish ones have a stronger flavour.
- I tried a lighter lemon custard that was less acidic and more delicate and that worked really well with the pistachio cake, so maybe that would do the trick.
- The sweet pastry base is just a shortbread pastry crust, but he makes it in house.
- The flavour combination works, but it just needs some slight adjusting which he may or may not do.
- Caramel and milk chocolate mousse with a heart of mandarin $5.20
- Orange and chocolate is not my go to flavour, but when the sweet, tart, and bitter are properly balanced I really like it.
- The ingredients also have to be premium because I can’t stand artificial fruit flavours and waxy chocolate together. It’s no problem here.
- This is one of his top 3 most popular cakes being sold at the moment.
- It was a rather light dessert and I could taste an equal balance of chocolate and orange, but both were delicate and not aggressive.
- The orange glaze carried a lot of sweet candied orange flavour, and the other mandarin component was the gel in the centre and not as strong.
- The mousse was light and airy and well made and the chocolate cake was moist, mild in chocolate flavour, and quite basic.
- Overall it was a very soft dessert cake and I am a very texture oriented person so I was hoping for something crispy or crunchy.
- I would have loved at least one more layer to this dessert.
- Passion fruit ganache in choux pastry $4.30
- I really wasn’t feeling this, but it looked beautiful and the éclair pastry was nicely done.
- It was cut open and filled instead of piped so there was a lot of passion fruit ganache, but it was just too much.
- The passion fruit ganache is really aggressive and sour too with strong passion fruit flavour and I just wasn’t keen on the flavour combination.
- The ganache was also very thick, creamy and sweet so a little went a long way.
- I think I would have liked the passion fruit with something lighter like a coconut custard or vanilla pastry cream, and this just didn’t suit my tastes very well.
- Maple syrup ganache with caramelized Pecan on a sweet pastry tart shell and a light vanilla Chantilly $5.20
- Again!!! He nailed the maple pecan flavour combination and every dessert with the two ingredients was a hit thus far!
- I don’t get excited for many pecan tarts unless I’m in the South, but this is no ordinary pecan tart.
- This was my favourite dessert and I could see myself coming back even just for this and the maple pecan croissant.
- This is another top seller at the moment and it was easy to see why. It’s amazing!
- I’ve never appreciated pecan pies and whipped cream on a high level, until I was introduced to this one.
- This was a beautiful French-Canadian pecan tart.
- It looked like an overwhelming amount of vanilla chantilly, but it wasn’t at all.
- It looked so rich and decadent that one bite would be enough, but I was wrong.
- The vanilla chantilly had flavourful vanilla beans throughout and it was floral and obvious which I loved.
- The cream wasn’t greasy and it was so light and airy that it could convert a “I don’t like whipped cream” person.
- The shortbread pastry crust was even and crisp.
- It was layered with a maple syrup ganache and one even layer of whole caramelized pecan pieces.
- It was a bit ooey gooey, but different than most pecan tarts I’ve ever tried.
- It wasn’t syrupy, chewy, dense and overly sweet although alone the ganache was very sweet.
- The ganache almost tasted like maple toffee and I loved the variety of creamy, crispy, crunchy, and fluffy textures in this.
- The vanilla chantilly was the perfect addition to ease the sweetness so eaten together it was so well balanced and enjoyable.
- My only issue is that the vanilla bean garnish was not edible, and I always prefer edible garnishes that contribute to the flavour of the dessert.
- Nonetheless, if I have a pecan pie, I want it to be like this.
- I can’t rate these because they are going to change in the next month or so.
- Christophe is waiting for his Carma chocolate to arrive (premium Swiss chocolate) so until then he is using other good quality brands.
- I tried Carma chocolate to the brand he is using now (same percentage cocoa) and it was night and day, so I can’t wait until he starts using Carma.
- All the chocolates were good, but also quite basic in structure.
- All of them had ganache fillings and they all tasted like the flavours they were supposed to be.
- I was hoping for a bit more detail or components and variety to each individual chocolate though.
- Again, Chris is in his early stages and he doesn’t have help yet, so I know these will get even better over time.
- I tried 7 hand made chocolates and my order is as follows (from least favourite to most favourite):
- Citron et Thyme – My least favourite was still good and I actually liked it, but you have to like thyme because it is strong.
- Caramel – This was quite basic. It was filled with a creamy smooth good quality caramel that was not runny.
- Kalamansi Framboise – It was on the sour side and I could taste more kalamansi (lime-orange flavour) than raspberry.
- Pistache – This was filled with a pistachio white chocolate ganache, but I could taste more white chocolate and little pistachio and perhaps even some almond.
- Gianduja Noir – It was filled with a thick 100% hazelnut paste which I loved. There was no added sugar or dairy (vegan option), but I just wanted some texture or crunch from hazelnuts too.
- Pecan Noir – There was no pecan nut inside, but there were crispy crumbs of candied pecan throughout the chocolate ganache filling which I loved.
- **Noix de Coco et Passion – This was unexpectedly impressive! I could taste the coconut and passion fruit and it was aromatic and fragrant. I wish this flavour combination and balance of ingredients translated into the éclair.