Food fact: Some of the best French bakeries in Orange County are run by Asians.
There's Japonaise Bakery in Tustin, whose custard-and-strawberry-stuffed croissants would make Escoffier weep. For baguettes with crusts as shatteringly crisp as potato chips, go to Little Saigon, where Vietnamese bakers have perfected the French loaf for use on their banh mi sandwiches. And at Irvine's Layer Cake Bakery, it's not Frenchmen, but two Indonesian sisters who make the macaroons.
The newest is Paris Baguette, a South Korea-based boulangerie and patisserie that would rival those on the Champs-Elysées.
Where can you find it? Inside Zion, a Korean supermarket in Irvine; near its refrigerated jars of kimchi, of course!
Don't let its location fool you. Though this second Orange County outpost of the chain recently opened to very little fanfare and looks very much like the Vons supermarket bakery it replaced, closer inspection will reveal flaky croissants so perfectly symmetric it can be balanced on a toothpick and so crumbly, a bite will trigger an avalanche.
My best advice: if you bring it home, eat it over the sink.
Some croissants are violated by a hot dog rammed up its dough-hole ($1.80), their tops brushed with a sticky-sweet glaze that make them sparkle to a glossy gleam.
Another is drizzled with a tempting stream of chocolate ($1.70). Hidden underneath all those buttery layers is even more chocolate.
In fact, the “panini” tastes more like a Hot Pocket crossed with a Pop Tart than a grilled-cheese sandwich. It's flat, filled with a thin-layer of cheese and salty bits of ham. The croquette (actually a savory orb of fried dough with a lightly-curried, mashed potato filling) is as fluffy as a goose-down pillow. And since it's really a donut, it'll grease your fingers to an oily shine.
Same goes for the sweet red bean donut ($1.10).
If you can picture it, think of you're average jelly-filled sugar-bomb; then subtract the jelly and replace it with a not-too-sweet paste of red bean. The result is a breakfast treat that won't cause you to crash within the hour.
And can Paris Baguette's baguettes stand up to those actually sold in the City of Light? I can't say, because first, I've never been to France; and second, I was too full to try them.
But what I can say is this: Who needs the French?!
Paris Baguette Bakery Cafe
4800 Irvine Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92620
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.