When it comes to Hanoi’s experience of bakeries, besides big names like Nguyen Son bakery, Thu Huong, which are bakery chains for take away, small patisseries opened by local pastry chefs often showcase their cake display cases near the road, so that passers-by can see their cakes. Therefore, it is not easy to find patisseries with windows full of glorious gateaux, charming chocolates and other tempting treats. To me, that kind of pastry shops is exactly what would offer cake and tea experiences that satisfy my sweet cravings. On searching petite pastry like that, La Patisserie Chez Moi is the one that makes me keep coming back.
My first experience with this bakery happened when I was riding by — suddenly, the pastry shop’s signage and shining glass window grabbed my eyes. I decided to go inside.
The shop’s simple décor reminded me of coffee shops in Europe. It was an otherworldly experience sitting by the glass door, enjoying flavourful cakes, sipping at my tea and watching life go by outside. The patisserie offers nice views onto its quiet street, in total contrast with the bustling thoroughfares close by.
“Chez Moi means to feel like home,” pastry chef and shop owner Cong Tu Nguyen tells me. His friendly look makes me think of Graham Elliot of MasterChef US. “I want people to feel like that when they are at our shop”.
“When I first went to France to study, I didn’t go there to become a pastry chef. But I feel making desserts is more fascinating and suitable for me.”
Hanoi’s Metropolis of Mousse
His fascination with desserts may explain the tasty cakes he makes. His bakery offers a wide range of desserts with a main course of mousse. Young Vietnamese call Chez Moi ‘Hanoi’s metropolis of mousse’. With a diverse selection, people can easily choose their favourite.
For me, it’s the blueberry mousse. It is soft, fluffy and melts in your mouth. Like any classic mousse, it’s not too sweet and tastes of blueberry. “To make delightful mousse, it’s a must to use fresh fruits,” says Tu. “It’s easily recognisable whether or not you use fresh ingredients for your mousse.”
But my top choice when dropping by Chez Moi is the macaron. Chez Moi’s macaron may be not as good as in some five-star hotels in Hanoi, but that’s not a fair comparison. Not everyone can go into a classy hotel to enjoy macaron at teatime. The macarons here are delicate and offer a contrast of textures, from the crunchy shell to the creamy inside — the trickiest part in making these tiny sweets. A lime macaron paired with Earl Grey tea is the perfect treat.
“The macaron is the only cake that I don’t change, even slightly, from the recipe I learnt in France,” says Tu. “I had unforgettable experiences with the macaron when I opened the shop. I put the macaron on display, then after a few hours, the shell was sweaty and no longer crunchy due to the humidity here in Hanoi. That was a real lesson.”
Besides the macaron and mousse, tiramisu is also among Chez Moi’s top choices. And young gourmands favour the simply ornamented cakes, standing out from most traditional bakeries in Hanoi, which often overuse whipped cream. Together with its friendly service, Chez Moi is a really nice patisserie to bookmark. — Huyen Tran
Chez Moi is located at the back of Hang Day Stadium’s Gate 10, Grandstand B, and opposite Ngo 19 Hang Chao, Dong Da, Hanoi. The bakery opens weekdays only.
This article was originally published on Word Vietnam Issue May 2015. Words by me. Edits by Nick Ross.