My recent croissant obsession has been taking me all over the city, in search of the best. I believe I’ve now visited every one of the 20 arrondissements – even being allowed into the ultra-exclusive 21ème, where only the truest gourmands are allowed to rove in pursuit of their various and sundry culinary endeavors. The croissant quest has also motivated me to visit pastry shops that, while I was certainly aware of, I never made the time for. One of those shops was none other than MOF Laurent Duchêne’s.
My excuse for never heading chez Duchêne in the past was that his shop is so far out in the 13ème that two realities were probable A. Without substantial tourist traffic (and the euros that come with it), he wouldn’t be able to create pastries competitive with the more centrally located shops and B. No matter how good the pastries were, and no matter how much I might love them, most of you reading this still aren’t going that far out of the way for pastry. Those suspicions aside, being able to double-duty the visit for some croissants made it all worthwhile and allowed me to pick up the Equilibre here. So how was it?
Well, calling a pastry Equilibre is pretty ambitious – verging on audacious. Should it being anything but a perfect equilibrium and flavors and/or textures, it’s just not going to live up to the name. In fact, it’s probably only Claire Damon from Des Gateaux et du Pain who could slap that name on a pastry and have me believe it was true; the woman is a wizard of balance. Laurent Duchêne . . . not so much. It’s certainly a very nice pastry, but on the texture front you could only say it was in equilibirum in so much as nothing was radically off-balance or in conflict. In terms of flavors – the raspberry was far too muted. It just got lost in the lemon mousse and pistachio pain de gênes, as well as in the rhubarb.
Nitpicking aside, that pistachio pain de gêne was delightful. And the mousse citron was good stuff, if a bit sweet. Maybe I would have been more into it had the name not set my expectations sky-high.
I also picked up another couple pastries of Monsieur Duchêne’s, when I snagged the above and some croissants. One, the Verveine, was nothing to write home about, but his Fraicheur is one to keep an eye out for here on the site in the future. It featured an awesome grapefruit mousse with wee bits of grapefruit mixed in. Yum.
So, yeah, if you happen to be in the 13ème and need a snack, the Equilibre is a decent purchase. I’m of course not dazzled by it, but I think you could like the pistachio pain de gêne and the lemon mousse enough – even if the overall work is not quite in equilibrium. Plus, the only other real patissier close-by is Gerard Mulot, and well . . . Laurent Duchêne is a definite upgrade from that.