Last weekend my lovely tasting assistant (LTA) and I trekked out to Chantilly Patisserie in Lomita to taste their purported "better than beard papa" cream puffs. They offer two flavors, custard and black sesame and according to J. Gold the chef had a long training in Japan so I was expecting a transcendent experience.
My LTA and I popped in on a quiet afternoon. The place had that sterile, clinical-chic feel-- like a Boule or similar high priced confectionary joint. Nobody else was there, yet one table was filled with some long departed customer's half eaten cake, pastries and coffee. I could almost hear the flies buzzing around it. Sort of incongruous for the chic surroundings
We were greeted by the counter person who may (or may not) have been the pastry chef, Keiko Nojima. She was a slight Japanese woman with an air of quiet attitude about her. (however this was in a grubby strip mall, on a similarly grubbly strip of Lomita Blvd-- a strange place to find Beverly Hills attitude).
Even compared to Beard Papa's $1.75 puffs, these babies were pricey-- $3.00 each, or a box of 5 for $13. OK, chalk it up to an independent baker making her way in the world. I told the counter girl that we would like to pay for 5 of them, but we would like to eat one custard and one sesame now, and then we will make our decision as to what the other three would be based on our tasting.
I was shocked to hear the women tell me "no, we can't do that."
I said, "No, you don't understand, I'll pay for all five of them now. We will decide what we want the other three to be after we eat these."
She said, "No, the pack of 5 is only available to go."
OK, whatever. I tell her I'd like 3 black sesame and 2 custard, along with one mini cheesecake stick. While I'm waiting for the pastry chefs in the back to fill my puffs, I start to ask this woman (who may or may not be Keiko Nojima!) what the best way to preserve the puffs that we don't eat immediately. "We will probably eat them within 12 hours," I say. "Is it possible to refresh the choux by putting it in a hot oven on a stone for, say, 45 seconds?" Again, I had to explain myself to this woman. I don't know if she was intentionally being difficult because of this bad attitude, or if she was just daft. Eventually she told me "just put them in the refrigerator." OK, then the pastry gets soggy-- exactly what I was looking for tips to avoid. Whatever, again.
The puffs come out from the back. This woman slowly and methodically puts each puff in a little plastic sleeve, then builds a little paper box (like the ones beard papa uses) and gently slides the puffs into a 3x2 configuration. She closes the box and seals it with a little square sticker that has the bakery's name on it.
I believe the total came to about $14 and change. I hand her my debit card and she sighs and points to a tiny sign in front of the cash register-- "$15 minimum on credit card purchases." Oy gevalt. I hand over the cash.
OK, well-- now the moment you've been waiting for. The puffs!
First impressions-- we opened the box and found-- 3 custard and 2 sesame. Great one-- she couldn't even get this one right (or again she did it to stick it to us-- I still can't tell.)The puffs themselves were--- pretty good. Choux light and crispy, and the black sesame was unique and quite tasty. It tasted just as you would expect, a light and creamy custardy texture with that sort of light halvah flavor, but grey with little black specks. The plain custord version was light and airy, a little sweet. The sesame were definitely the standout number.
HOWEVER-- for the exhorbitant price, the suck-o attitude, and the way-out-of-the-way location, it'll be a really long while before I want to treck out to that grimy little strip mall on Lomita Blvd. again when I can get half priced puffs without the attitude up at hollywood and highland (or even better, after a dinner of pork pump at mei long village in San Gabriel!)