Chantilly Patisserie v. Bonjour French Pastry?
This evening I went to Chantilly for the first time ever. It was an inauspicious first-time, though, since 1. I went with my parents, and 2. we got there at 7:20 pm, ten minutes before closing time.
Understandably, the display case was practically empty. All that was left were some random, single pastries that were extremely expensive. Yes, we don't patronize high-end bakeries often, so sticker shock can happen rather easily to us -- more so for my cheapskate father than either me or my mom -- and of course our timing couldn't have been worse.
As we left emptyhanded and completely underwhelmed, my mom kept mumbling over and over about "Bonjour on Western Boulevard" and how it was absolutely amazing and gorgeous and fabulous and Japanese-French... and made me feel like a loser for ever bringing my parents to Chantilly in the first place.
I Googled Bonjour French Pastry but didn't get too many helpful hits. It's barely mentioned in Chowhound, but Yelp has a good number of positive reviews.
I want to know what Chowhounders specifically think of Chantilly versus Bonjour: Can anybody compare and contrast? I live in the South Bay, which is why I'm particularly interested in this pair of shops.
Thanks in advance for your insight!!
I'll bite on this subject. As a kid, I remember my peers being sent out by their moms in jeans and t-shirts. That's pretty normal. Clean jeans and tidy t-shirts. My mom, born and raised with the sensibilities of old-school Japanese attention to detail that verges on psychological disorder, sent me out in jeans and t-shirts as well. Very clean jeans and t-shirts that were spotless, no grass stains on the knees, no juice stains on the t-shirts, and hand-pressed to the point of retaining a permanent pleat down the center of each pant leg and shirt arm. These were my play clothes. I think most who are old-school or were raised by old-school generations like my mom might be able to relate to my story.
I think looking to elaborate on why Bonjour is "inferior" to Patisserie Chantilly is somewhat harsh in my eyes. Rather, I would think emphasis as to why Chantilly is viewed with such praise might be more eloquent - just a slightly different but important perspective.
I've never been to Bonjour - only peeked inside with the intent on giving them a go some time. Recollecting what I saw, I have the impression that Bonjour has a strong sense of detail. I think just about everything I saw could be proudly displayed in most Japanese French-style bakeries in Japan. Everything looked very good - again, just based on what I saw. They appeared to have had a lot more to choose from in their case compared to Chantilly - and that may be where Chantilly shines - while not having the wider assortment of Bonjour, everything looks (and IMHO tastes) exceptional.
While Chantilly may have less items in their list of regular desserts offered, they do each one with the honed precision and care that I just don't see anywhere else. Each dessert seemed to have been created by a jeweler who is doubling as an artisan pastry chef. Each adornment on each dessert seems to have its place, with a sense of position and balance that is only achieved with careful thought and consideration.
Anyone who regularly goes to Chantilly knows what their specialty is - their cream puffs. You will most likely see them in their case, but those are just display samples. As opposed to just pointing at and ordering cream puffs in the case at just about any other bakery, one has to order the cream puffs here. Again - this is the exceptional focus that Chantilly puts on creating the best possible rendition of this dessert that they will allow their customers to experience. To allow filled choux to sit for any length of time will only degrade its texture - moisture from the cream is its enemy. In order to prevent the choux from eventually becoming a soggy mess, Chantilly makes their puffs to order. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, sometimes as long as 20 minutes. It depends if they choux is ready to go, or still being baked and then cooled (heat is the cream's adversary). I've learned that it's better to order ahead and go early if one wants the best selection.
I haven't been to Chantilly in a while - maybe six months or so - but their list of flavored creams were a standard vanilla cream, their much-loved kuro goma, and chocolate. I think they were toying with the thought of offering either a maccha or chestnut filling as well, but I'm not sure. Whatever the case, the first three for me are plenty to choose from, and each is excellent in their own right.
I think you owe it to yourself to try both vis a-vis and decide for yourself which suits your preference. I will grant you that one pays a premium for incremental elevations in quality and focus on detail, but I think this is true for so many things in life. Some will argue that it's not worth it to them, while others will argue in its favor. And I don't think Chantilly cares either way - to them, I feel that they do things the way that they do because they feel that it's the only way it should be done - to the best of their ability as true artisans. In reference to my personal story as a kid, I get the impression that both Bonjour and Chantilly hold true to that strong Japanese ethic of focus. It might be that while Bonjour is like the mom who sends their kids out in spotless play clothes, Chantilly couldn't imagine letting their kids out to play without first hand-pressing their play clothes - gotta get that permanent pleat pressed in just because it's supposed to be that way. :)
Wow, thank you so much for your thorough and specific explanation, bulavinaka! This is very helpful to me and precisely the type of answer I was looking for!
Thank you for taking the time and effort to offer both concrete and metaphorical examples of your opinion. Wow, again. : ))
At Chantilly I ordered a birthday cake there and it was incredible. My friend who normally hates cake was eating up, although he said he was also drunk at the time.
I've also had their Choux aux Sesame and it's really good. I also bought one of their cheesecakes for a potluck and it was delicious, but I don't think it was worth the price I paid.
I've had Bonjour once, when I bought a cake for my family. It was also really good.
Really, the only thing that stops me from frequenting Bonjour more is location and convenience. Not only is Chantilly really close to my house, but I also visit GaJa more frequently than I do Asa Ramen and Sanuki no Sato.
Also, maybe not too important, but Chantilly accepts credit whereas Bonjour does not. =)
I love both places for different reasons, Bonjour is a place to sit and sip a coffee complemented with their pastries. Chantilly is a place you order to go and enjoy it away. I especially go to Chantilly more often due to having dinner at the one of my favorite Udon restaurant two doors down. Anyway both have their pros and cons but nonetheless much better than any other patisseries around Torrance. Another great place is on Sepulveda Blvd called 'Tour le Jour' a Korean patisseries with more variety of choices and excellent cakes.
My family's thanksgiving day guests brought over three cakes from Bonjour: a strawberry, a cheesecake, and a chocolate cake. The cheesecake blew me away. I hate cheesecake, but this one was absurdly light and airy and tastes spectacular. The chocolate and the strawberry were both very light, but the chocolate truly stood out as being very flavorful and tasty.
I was VERY impressed with the cakes, as was everyone who tried them. I haven't tried Chantilly so I can't say how it compares, but I can't see how any cake on earth can be that much better than the ones I tried from Bonjour.