Restaurant: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe
Last visited: February 24, 2014
Phone: (604) 608-6870
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 1059 Alberni Street
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Pastry Chef Thierry Busset
- Part of Top Table Group
- Artisan pastries/cakes/desserts
- Handmade artisan chocolates
- Some savoury lunch items
- Very popular/busy
- Casual, but sophisticated
- Organic & fair trade coffee/tea
- Pay at cashier service
- Wine & Beer/Fully licensed
- Eat in/Take-out
- Outdoor patio seating
- Gift shop
- Open daily Mon-Sun 7am-12am
- Thierry – Visit/Post 1
- Thierry – Visit/Post 2
- Twitter: @thierrychocolat
**Recommendations: Chestnut Tart, Fruit Tarts, Gianeuja Parisian Macaron, Hazelnut Choux, Passionfruit Ganache Chocolate, Bouchette Feuillantine Chocolate
I rarely see this place empty or even slow no matter what time of day. Thierry seems busy at all hours and even the patio can be full when it is raining and cold at night. It helps that the patio is heated, but still, it’s pretty impressive how well they do. Of course the Top Table brand and the fact that it is under the name of one of Vancouver’s top pastry chefs, Thierry Busset, helps too.
I’ve visited Thierry quite a bit since it first opened and I’ve had my ups and downs with it. Mind you, the “downs” are never really that “down”, but it is because my expectations are so high for Top Table and Thierry. I’m familiar with the Top Table restaurants and enjoyed Thierry’s desserts back at CinCin, so it’s hard to let go of that. I know what both are capable of and they are pioneers in Vancouver’s fine dining scene.
When you take a pastry chef from a fine dining restaurant and move him to a cafe/pastry shop under his own name, things will change despite it being the same person making the desserts. The concept, price point, context, size of menu and execution will modify, so I can’t expect CinCin level desserts at half the price. It is still the same quality of ingredients and talent in the kitchen, but it is just different.
Anyway I’ve accepted the fact that they are two separate beings, and Thierry has been open for a few years now so no point on holding onto memories. It is what it is and they’re doing great, and I pretty much always see him in the kitchen.
I am fond of seeing the chef in the kitchen because it shows passion, commitment and helps with quality control. It is also a special part of the brand and often with big names, people go to see the actual chef at work. As a local we can forget this.
I’m actually surprised nobody has really capitalized on the idea of a late night dessert bar or cafe, and it’s still a relatively empty market in Vancouver. There are restaurants serving desserts that are open late, and also dessert only restaurants open late, but there are very few dessert only restaurants at this caliber open late. I was hoping this would change in 2012, as to why I mentioned dessert only restaurants as a Top 10 Dessert Trend of 2012, but it still hasn’t happened yet.
On this occasion I tried some of Thierry’s new and/or seasonal items. I appreciate the seasonal menu although he has found his signatures and mainstays over the last few years.
It’s a European-French style bakery with a couple local influences, but on the whole it is traditional in technique and classic in style. Some items I find quite pricey, but for the area it is not too far off from its neighbours. It’s in a prime location and it attracts as many tourists as it does locals.
As a local, I have my favourites and not everything is created equal, but regardless Thierry is one of the city’s most respected pastry chefs and pastry shops.
Note: I do know Thierry and many of the staff from Top Table Group. There are no expectations for a post. All opinions are my own.
On the table:
London Fog Tea Latte – 4/6 (Very good)
- It’s a pretty pricey London Fog, but I appreciate the high quality of their loose leaf teas.
- Their teas are cultivated by Saunam, a fourth generation tea farmer and master blender known for some of the finest black teas.
- The tea leaves are harvested by hand and there are no use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers.
Apple Tart – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Puff pastry + caramelized apple $5.75
- This is a Thierry classic and it was on the menu since CinCin Ristorante days.
- It is unassuming and it gets overlooked for the price and/or because it sounds ordinary.
- I don’t know if people would appreciate this unless they knew it from CinCin.
- It is not small or that big when you consider how thin it is. It is a delicate and fragile apple tart.
- I prefer the CinCin version which was a plated dessert served with vanilla gelato and caramel, but I can’t expect that here, so I won’t compare.
- If he did not change the recipe, the apples are still Elstar apples.
- Elstar apple are a hybrid of Golden Delicious and Ingrid Marie apples and they have a honey flavour. They are naturally quite sweet instead of tart.
- These paper thin apples are sliced by hand, not mandolin which is impressive.
- The apples are baked until they are so soft and tender they melt in your mouth. There is no bite, powdery or mealy texture.
- They are caramelized, but not too sweet and the spices are very mild if even any.
- It’s not an American style apple pie with lots of cinnamon, cloves and or nutmeg. This is Parisian which doesn’t use as much spice or any at all.
- There is added sugar, but it’s still quite naturally sweet from the slow baking and natural sugars caramelizing.
- The puff pastry is crispy and flaky and not too oily and it was a good ratio of pastry to apples. They were almost even in layers.
- They were both delicate, but the pastry was a nice textural contrast to the soft apples.
- It’s a refined apple tart and it is very good and well executed, but in Vancouver I’m not sure if it fits the local palate, tastes, and style.
**Chestnut Tart – 5/6 (Excellent)
- Almond paste, chestnut puree, candied chestnuts, candied maple pecans $7.75
- I love this dessert! It was one of my holiday obsessions since it launched near the end of last year.
- If you like almond croissants with chocolate, think of this as the tart version.
- I also really love chestnut anything, almonds and nutty desserts, so this had my immediate attention.
- It’s quite dense, but more of a baked good/pastry than a traditional dessert or sweet tart, so the heaviness is weighed differently.
- It has beautiful shavings of good quality chocolate and a nice and moist thick layer of almond frangipane.
- The chestnuts are from France by Valrhona and he uses their puree to ensure consistency rather than making his own.
- There are bits of candied chestnuts in the tart, but I would like more whole candied maple pecan halves forming a layer.
- It is a very nutty dessert with an excellent balance of almonds, chestnuts and chocolate.
- It isn’t too sweet and I highly recommend it.
- I’m tempted to re-order it all the time and that’s from someone who likes to always try something new.
- It was in my Top 24 Most Memorable/BEST Restaurant Desserts & Baked Goods in Vancouver/BC.
Mango Lime Tart – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Fresh mango + lime sabayon + coconut sable crust $6.75
- I love all the ingredients in this, so I thought I would enjoy it even more. I thought it was very good, but I think it had more potential.
- It was a hybrid of a key lime pie meets tropical fruit tart.
- I loved the fresh chunks of Mexican mango, but they were still quite tart and not ripe.
- The dessert overall was very tart and equally as sweet, so I wouldn’t mind it a notch less of each.
- The lime zest was very fragrant in the lime sabayon (a light foamy mixture of beaten eggs, sugar, and wine) which filled the tart.
- Instead of a sabayon I would have liked a lime infused coconut custard because I lost a bit of the coconut flavour when everything was eaten together.
- The sabayon was good, but just a bit too sour and light in texture for the density of the crust and large pieces of mango.
- The crispy coconut sable crust was almost like an American macaroon meets sandy and crumbly shortbread, and I could eat it plain like a cookie.
- Sable (French butter cookie) is one of my favourite pie crusts.
- The crust was quite thick, but even all around, not dry or soggy, very nutty and toasted, and I enjoyed it.
- It was a surprisingly light dessert because of the lime sabayon giving it a bright zing, but I would have liked more creamy coconut to balance the acidity.
Salted Caramel Macaron – 2.5/6 (Okay-good)
- Individual $2.25 7-pack $14.75 12-pack $24.45
- Thierry is probably most known for his macarons and some people come here just for them, but I don’t fall in the category.
- Traditionally macarons are bite-sized in France, but these ones are bigger like American sandwich cookies.
- The size doesn’t bother me, but just stating the fact.
- The macaron texture is just a bit soft and the shape a tad flat with not enough filling to balance the macaron shells.
- I don’t know if the meringue was not beaten stiff enough or if it was over beaten, but the shells were thin and they seemed to be spreading instead of rising.
- It had a slight chew, which I liked, but I missed the crisp macaron shells and chocolate ganache filling.
- The filling was caramel buttercream, but the caramel flavour was very mild. I also enjoy caramel chocolate ganache fillings or a caramel centre.
- Macarons should be just as much about the filling as the shells. Both are important to an excellent macaron.
- There was a sprinkle of fleur de sel on top and it wasn’t too sweet even as caramel, but the texture was off for me.
- I find their macarons a bit heavy with dye, although Laduree and Pierre Hermes (Godfathers of macarons) macarons are heavy with dye too.
- In the end it’s still a delicious sugary cookie and it wasn’t dry, but I can get specific with macarons.
- See my post – What to look for in a macaron.
Beignets de Carnaval – 4/6 (Very good)
- Chef Thierry’s famous beignets are back! Originating from the 16th century at the “Carnaval” in France, the beignet is now a staple Mardis Gras delicacy.
- Traditionally served with café au lait, beignets are sweet square-shaped doughnuts sprinkled with a dusting of sugar. Served with your choice of fresh chocolate dip or caramel sauce or house-made raspberry jam. $9.95
- Available until March 16th from 11am – 9pm daily, while supplies last.
- I tried the famous/original beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
- I wouldn’t compare them to these and I prefer the original, but the original is the original, so it’s never too fair to compare.
- I liked that Thierry made his own version as well.
- They are semi-prepared upon order, and these came out warm but not hot.
- They were quite pillowy and light, but not as pillowy, airy, and light as the beignets from Cafe du Monde.
- Just like the original, they are not very sweet at all, which is intentional and they are almost savoury.
- The sweetness is only from the icing sugar and dipping sauces.
- The inside membranes weren’t as thin and stretchy as I prefer, but they were still good.
- The batter had a bit of vanilla bean which the original does not have. I preferred the added vanilla bean.
- I liked that they were not greasy at all, but I wouldn’t mind the inside a bit more moist.
- The chocolate was around 60% and it was excellent Valrhona chocolate. It wasn’t mixed with much cream or milk because it solidified quite quickly.
- The caramel is buttery and rich and it had a great flavour. It was the sweetest, but probably my favourite dip. You can add salt if you wish.
- The raspberry jam was smooth with no seeds and it wasn’t too sour or sweet. It was good, but choice of sauce is personal and none were bad.
- I haven’t tried the beignets from Lucky’s Doughnuts yet, but their Traditional French Cruller is worth a visit.
AH Thierry … I travel a lot but when in Vancouver on a Saturday, I tuck myself in a corner with a book, a Latte (doppio espresso), and that amazing apple tart … sometimes the pear danish … sometimes a ‘Viennoise’ a little more eclectic … everything is good. Next time Mijune, try the Pink Praline. I actually visited the factory near Valence in France, that makes the Pink Praline for some of the world’s best pastry Chefs. It is the same used by LeNotre in France for their iconic pink praline dessert. I was sad to hear, in 2009, that Chef Gaston LeNotre had passed away (he was 88 I think …) but his name became an iconic name in pastry often compared to Chanel in fashion. His pink praline brioche is legendary and Thierry makes one that is true to the standard: high.
I got Bruno a large gift basket from Thierry for Valentine’s Day. It was a great assortment of macarons, jam, chocolates, salted caramels, madeleines, jam, marble loaf, espresso …. anyways, a great variety. It was presented so beautifully. We love Thierry ….. we also love the hours …. it’s amazing to have such a high-caliber cafe open so late (and so early) here in Vancouver.
I appreciate your critique of Thierry’s products. But I find some of your comments not necessary when you compare Thierry’s pastries to other places that are not accessible locally. When you make statements in reference to certain desserts you’ve had in New Orleans, for example, some of us are not as worldly or well travelled as you to have the opportunity to try them. My suggestion is that you should comment on the product you’ve tasted at this restaurant, either good or bad, and leave it at that.
You make reference to the London Fog Tea Latte as being pricey but who are you comparing it to? Why was there no comparison in this case? If you compare it to Starbucks, they’re averaging above $4+ and they serve it in a paper cup. So given the fact that they served this beverage in a cup and saucer – it gives the drink a bit of panache.
Your appraisal of the chestnut tart seems fair and I definitely will try it the next time I’m in Vancouver downtown.