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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Paris Comes to L.A. Via Koreatown

In Southern California, until a few years ago, it was impossible to get a true pain aux raisins or any of the other wonderful breakfast pastries the French call viennoiserie. If you looked hard enough, you could find a half-way decent croissant, but a genuine Parisian brioche or raisin Danish – never!

Paris Baguette danish a la mode Francaise

The Luxurist  does not understand why his fellow Angelenos had to put up with this mauvaise situation for such a long time. But I digress. Suffice it to say that things improved mightily with the arrival of Paris Baguette.

Also read Dinner Is Served: Pasta Explained

This small chain of French bakeries is not exactly what you might suppose. To begin with, it's not French at all. Nor is it run by Indochinese, North Africans or anybody who comes from one of the many former French colonies.

PB serves coffee in these cute blue-striped cups

It's owned by a South Korean conglomerate –a rather large one at that – and staffed with Korean bakers and friendly young Korean-American waiters and baristas, decked out in striped boat neck jerseys and berets – the kind of thing that represents French style to everyone but the French. But, again, I digress.

In other words, don't even think of speaking French at Paris Baguette. You won't be understood.

You will find a few other eccentricities at PB: they don't serve skim or non-fat milk with coffee, even though nowadays the French will. But, of course, PB is not a French company.

Most of their stores are located in outlying communities such as Buena Park, Rowland Heights, Arcadia, and West Covina, where many Asians live. The firm's only Los Angeles stores both are in Koreatown. The one on Western Ave. is just down the block from the K Town Boxing Club, in case you feel the need to work off calories after gorging on PB's fresh strawberry cream buns, fruit tarts, pains au chocolat and peanut crumb breads.

There are a few other U.S. stores in New Jersey and a new, large, popular eatery in New York City, just off Times Square.

Also read The Enlightened Traveler: A Paris Institution Returns

By baking in a nearly authentic French way, Paris Baguette is not catering to the taste of Americans, but to the half million Koreans and Korean-Americans who live in Southern California. Thank goodness for that. Koreans not only produce fabulous flat-screen TVs, they also are more advanced when it comes to viennoiserie.