Le Pain Quotidien Serves Your Daily bread

By Colleen Humfreville
Staff Writer

The French culture carries an unexplainable mysticism, a distinct culture known for its food, fashion and romance. The influence of France is contagious, even if it is half a world away.

This is where the delicious French bakery “Le Pain Quotidien,” with a four-and-a-half star rating on Yelp! comes into the picture, providing Orange County residents with their very own taste of the decadent French culture.

Located in the posh Fashion Island in Newport Beach, this small, yet noteworthy café made its debut in late October 2011. Adding to its 155 locations worldwide, it appears that OC’s personal taste of a classic patisserie is going to be just as successful.

As soon as you enter the door of Le Pain Quotidien, the delectable smell of freshly baked bread wafts through the air. Already, it’s as if you’ve been transported to an aged antique time, where people looked only to what was handmade and local for supplies. In fact, the entire restaurant is organic. Directly behind the cash register, there sits a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass window panes, all tinted with a light opaque look. Revealing the inner intricacies of the operations in the kitchen, it’s as if any customer can look into an old-world periscope as they check out the inner workings of this patisserie.

Sitting down in one of the booths (which are all made of reclaimed wood), you feel as if you just sat down at a little café – complete with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and oblong slices of wheat bread for your dipping pleasure. The bread, soft and “wheaty,” is exactly what you’d expect from a café as a pre-meal nosh.

And the meals themselves live up to the same standard — offering a variety of options from appetizers, to small plates and large platters. There is a portion option perfect for everyone.

For my own meal I chose salmon and avocado tartare. Our waitress had recommended it as one of the best small plate choices, and without a doubt, she was right.

People say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a creatively arranged plate of food can be just as powerful. As soon as the food came out, the plate had six delicately placed crostini, baked to the perfect level of crispiness. The tartare itself sat nearby, piled high with fresh avocado, thin slices of salmon, and decorative slices of a radish  — a quantity just right for all of the home-baked crostini. Iced tea in a small decanter stood off to the side, making the table set look quite snazzy.

In fact, just as the food came out, another customer at the restaurant could be heard saying “this is beautiful!” as his plate was set down.

It is often said that we eat with our eyes. If something looks good, we want it. If that’s the case, you’ll get hungry as soon as you set your sights on the freshly baked offerings by the door.

As classical music quietly plays in the background, one look around the restaurant showed how local it sought to be. With the wood chairs, counters and cabinetry, the atmosphere is only added to by the placement of mason earthenware everywhere and menu holders that look like freshly baked slices of bread.

My only complaint of the night is that while I had thought the café was open until 10 p.m. (according to Yelp!, at least), in reality it was only open until 8 p.m. As a result, the night of dining was perhaps more rushed than it would have normally been with only minutes to get our order into the kitchen staff.

That small misstep aside, the food was not only colorful and beautifully arranged, but also completely worth the money. Although Le Quotidien is perhaps a bit pricier than your local bakery/café, the price is worth the high quality of food provided on your plate. [JT1]

The entire night there had an ambience of home comfort with the essential technology required for any café — you should see how fancy their espresso machine is! Le Pain Quotidien creates a fine dining experience without the high prices and stuffy atmosphere. It seems to be the perfect “pièce de résistance” of Fashion Island.

Average Price: $12 to $18 an entree