Location: 386 Royal York Road, Toronto
Remember Beard Papa? Because I certainly do! That was (and still is, though their only Canadian locations are in Vancouver) a delightful Japanese chain that specialized in delicious cream puffs. They used to have a location in the Pacific Mall, but then they broke hearts across the GTA by shutting down like a bunch of jerks.
Sadly, there’s no indication that they’re coming back anytime soon, but in the meanwhile, we’ve got Choux Lab.
Choux Lab serves up choux pastries (which are light and fluffy, with a crispy exterior) with a variety of fillings. The vanilla is probably the most Beard-Papa-esque, but they were actually handing out samples of that one, and it was delicious (and indeed, did remind me of Beard Papa, with a creamy, custardy filling), so I figured I’d order something else.
I went with the hazelnut, and it was very, very good. The filling was rich and ultra-creamy, with a great hazelnut flavour and a nice balance of sweetness — sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Beard Papa used to fill their puffs to order, and I was worried that the pre-made ones they serve here might lack that great crispy/fluffy/creamy combo. But the one I tried wasn’t soggy at all, and all the textures were right where they should be.
Choux Lab is just a few stores over from San Remo, and I worry that everyone will just stick with the reliable deliciousness there and not give this place a shot. But everyone needs to check this place out; I need them to stick around forever and not break my heart like Beard Papa did.
Location: 4040 Creditview Road #1, Mississauga
Akko Cake House is a bit oddly named. They do have a handful of cakes at the front, but mostly, this is a fairly standard Chinese bakery with a whole bunch of sweet and savoury buns and tarts.
I tried a few sweet buns: coconut, custard, and walnut.
The pastry itself was quite good — it was fresh, a little bit sweet, and super fluffy.
I was intrigued about the walnut variety; I don’t recall ever seeing a walnut bun before, and I’ve certainly never tried one. It was fairly subtle, however, with a very thin layer of walnut paste and a few walnut chunks. It tasted more like a plain bun with a mild walnut flavour.
The custard was about what you’d expect. It was sweet, creamy, and tasty.
The coconut bun was where it was at. The generous filling was really tasty, with a nice coconut flavour. It also has a surprisingly strong hit of salt that does a great job of rounding out the sweetness. It’s really good. The bakery was packed (the line was to the door when I left), and with buns that good, it’s easy enough to see why.
Location: 206C Queen Street South, Streetsville
It’s always a good sign when a bakery puts one of their pastries in a paper bag and it becomes translucent with buttery goodness. If the paper bag looks pristine? Sorry, that pastry probably sucks. I don’t make the rules.
Though they have an assortment of sweet and savoury pastries, the specialty at Kate’s Town Talk Bakery is clearly the butter tart, which you can get with pecans, raisins, raspberry Nutella, or on its own.
I got the pecan variety, and oh man, it’s good. The sign outside says that the butter tarts here “rival the best you’ve ever tasted,” and you know what? They’re not wrong. I wish the filling were a bit gooier, but other than that it’s basically butter tart perfection: the crust is perfectly flaky, the filling has a great toffee-like flavour, and it’s got those great crispy caramelized edges that are pretty much irresistible.
I’m not sure that it’s the best best butter tart that I’ve ever had, but it’s right up there, that’s for sure.
Location: 1183 Dundas Street West, Toronto
I love croissants. I mean, who doesn’t? They’re crispy, they’re fluffy, they’re buttery, they can be sweet, they can be savoury… they’re one of the world’s perfect foods, and there are few things more delightful than eating a really great one.
Well, Geste Croissanterie specializes in the stuff, and as you’d hope, they’re great. I tried a sweet one and a savoury one, and they were both seriously delicious.
I started with the smoked salmon sandwich, which they make with a croissant that’s been formed into a ring like a bagel. The croissant itself is top-notch; it’s super flaky and buttery, with a great contrast between the crispy exterior and the tender interior. But the rest of the sandwich isn’t an afterthought, with some seriously good smoked salmon that’s definitely a cut above the stuff you can buy at the supermarket.
But it was the pistachio pain au chocolat (which the man behind the counter said is their most popular item — and I can absolutely see why) that really blew me away. I’m sure it helped that it was clearly super fresh, but oh man this was easily one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while.
It features that same outstanding croissant base, which is filled with tasty chocolate and a gooey pistachio paste (I wish I had taken a picture of the interior so you could see how glorious it is). It’s very sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and the balance of all of the components is absolutely perfect. It’s so good.
Location: Stackt Market (28 Bathurst Street, Toronto)
Solato is a new gelato place in the Stackt Market with a pretty distinctive gimmick — the gelato itself is made on the spot in a process that’s basically like coffee pods, but for ice cream. It’s very slick.
The menu is relatively limited; when I went, it was just vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, and a couple of fruity flavours. You can either get the gelato by itself for six bucks, or pay an extra dollar and get a couple of toppings.
I went with hazelnut sans-toppings, and the whole process was pretty seamless; they put a pod in one of the machines, and within a couple of minutes it was dispensing soft serve gelato.
It’s fine. It’s a fun gimmick, I guess, but it’s hard to deny that there’s better gelato in the city.
I was afraid it might taste artificial, but it has a pretty clean hazelnut flavour, albeit a weak one (the nutty taste is far from robust). It’s very smooth, which I guess is the advantage of making it right on the spot, but otherwise it’s nothing special; it’s a bit of a shrug, especially for the price, but if you’re in the Stackt Market anyway it might be worth a shot just for the novelty value.