By GAIL MIYASAKI
Rafu Staff Writer
Flaky. Flavorful. Unforgettable. Mighty special buttery pastries! Thoughts of Paris come to mind with visions of French chocolate and almond crème croissants. Danishes. Brioches. Baguettes. Cakes. Cheesecakes. Tarts. Cookies. Macarons.
Much closer to home to satisfy chowhounds is Amandine Cafe, an ivy-covered bakery-café in West L.A. on busy Wilshire Blvd. near Bundy. Metered parking might be tough to find, so be patient.
While we snooze, bakery ovens are warming up from three in the morning. Making fresh bakery products every day is a labor of love. Staffers start from scratch using only high quality ingredients—this is as good as it gets!
Reason enough why Amandine made the list of hot 20 bakeries in Los Angeles magazine for 2009. In special company, we’ve already buzzed about three others on this A-list, namely Euro Pane, Jin Patisserie and La Provence.
Order at the counter and expect a line, fewer seats, during peak hours. Morning commuters get pastry/coffee combos for the road, others relax over a morning blend with breakfast.
Check daily specials on the blackboard. What seemingly looks like the usual lunch fare—sandwiches, salads and soups—is deceiving. We’re talking super fresh breads; salads, dressings and soups just like home cooking.
Artsy cakes, in 18 varieties, will intrigue. Luckily, you can order by the slice and try them all, or take a whole one to go. Snazzy fruit tarts with pastry cream or crème fraiche are popular choices. A nutty caramel banana cake got big raves from a young Asian dad with his toddler.
Fellow chocoholics! A breakfast regular’s rec—the delice au chocolat, a chocolate cake over a nutty graham crust—is blissful. Slowly savor every calorie-filled bite, without guilt, knowing that dark chocolate is good for your heart.
On a lazy Saturday, we relaxed in a covered outdoor patio where we spied a very small parking area out back. Seated near-by at communal tables were a bunch of UCLA students talking homework over chow, young families and some Wi-Fi-ers fixated on laptops.
A light French toast topped with sliced bananas (or strawberries or oranges) and real whipped cream was finger licking good. Made using brioche, with a higher egg and butter content than bread, is yummy.
For an egg fix, try this signature dish—ham and gruyere cheese omelette topped with a béchamel sauce. Creative tastes can choose their own fixings.
Need a java break? A biker guy living around the corner swears by his daily caffeine dose from here. Freshly roasted coffee beans from Olympia, Washington arrive in three days for brewing.
Yokohama-born Ryuta Toyoshima scouted sites on the East and West coasts for his pastry plus coffee café. His motto: “Find a moment of leisure and a savory indulgence that satisfies one’s craving.” Amen!
Back home in Japan, Toyoshima’s parents are immersed in an array of business ventures, including Macaroni Market Italian restaurants, French bakeries and a cosmetics company.
A former ski instructor and sports trainer, Ryuta breaks the 9 to 5 working guy mold. The inside of a kitchen was his home for two years while being trained as a pastry chef at one of their Italian eateries.
Taking a leap of faith eight years ago, Ryuta came to L.A. along with two extraordinary Japan-born staffers, a baker and pastry chef, from Tokyo. Amandine opened in August 2002.
With Amandine’s popularity here, California Café Amandine opened in Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Japan, on the main level of a modern five-story complex. This upscale version boasts an open kitchen and wine cellar, simply defining the Cali experience with a French twist. On the second level is the more intimate Food and Wine Amandine.
Not one to sit on his laurels, Ryuta headed to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley to learn all about wines. With certification papers in hand, he reveals a new challenge ahead: food plus wine pairing café. One plate, one wine.
For more photos, check here.
Amandine Cafe is located at 12225 Wilshire Blvd. in West Los Angeles. (310) 979-3211. Open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m-6 p.m.