Food & Wine

Viennoiserie, Entremets and Gateaux, Oh My!

By Katie Sweeney

While Alexander’s restaurant group is well-known for its luxe Japanese-inspired steakhouse, fans of classic French patisserie eschew meats for sweets, flocking to the company’s more recent venture, Alexander’s Patisserie. The traditional bakery in downtown Mountain View recently celebrated its four-year anniversary. Alexander’s flaky kouign amann, delectable tarts and innovative cakes — such as the patisserie’s current bestseller: a mango blossom petit gateau consisting of orange chiffon cake with mango mousse, vanilla chantilly and coconut lemongrass gelee — quickly developed a cultlike following. A second location opened in Cupertino down the street from Apple headquarters in 2016. Today, both bakeries draw such a crowd that there is often a line out front.

Photo by Vincent Leung.

Part of the patisserie’s immense success is thanks to its young and creative executive pastry chef, Phuong Quach. Quach studied at Le Cordon Bleu before working in the pastry kitchens at Madera and Tout Sweet and learning how to make chocolates at Sixth Course in San Francisco. Currently, Quach overseas a team of 12 and makes everything the bakery offers, from seasonal croissants to custom wedding cakes. 

“There are no limitations to what I can do here,” Quach says. “My baking influence is very French and Californian, with a little bit of an Asian twist. So it appeals to all.”

Indeed, Quach’s whimsical and playful desserts appeal to the child in all of us. Who wouldn’t want to devour her opera entremet with almond cake, coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache? While she serves classic flavors and combinations, Quach strives to surprise her regulars with unexpected items. Take her prickly pear croissant, for example. It’s filled with prickly pear gelee and vanilla chantilly with dehydrated meringue on top. “Not a lot of people know what prickly pear is,” she says. “It’s the nice way to throw something at our guests that they don’t expect, but they end up liking.”  

Quach collaborates with an in-house chocolatier on Alexander’s delectable chocolate offerings. 

“We have 12 bonbons and 12 truffle flavors. The truffles are ones that are enrobed in chocolate, and the bonbons are the ones that are cast in our shells, so you have a variety of rainbow colors, and they look like little planets.” The fleur-de-sel caramel is the top-selling chocolate, but all the flavors from hazelnut almond praline to passion fruit are downright delicious. 

Photo by Vincent Leung.

With a recently launched online store, catering service and the aforementioned custom wedding cakes, Alexander’s is in expansion mode. Quach is happily along for the ride, but wants customers to trust her prowess. 

“Anyone wanting a wedding cake should sit down with me for at least an hour to have a tasting,” she says. “I always recommend they let me have creative freedom, because I prefer that the cakes are an original creation, versus me re-creating someone else’s work.” 

And listen to what she’s got in store for the holidays: “We’re coming out with an Earl Grey mousse cake with kumquat, and then we also have a peppermint ‘hot chocolate mousse.’ It’s shaped like a gift box, and once you cut into it, you’ll have a little marshmallow-hot chocolate-peppermint center.” 

Quach uses only high-quality ingredients and seasonal fruit to make her edible masterpieces. Of course, the pastries must taste good, but Quach also understands the importance of appearance. “I could make a cake in a square or circle shape. However, I know this sounds a little silly, but I want everything I make to look so pretty you don’t want to cut into it.” 

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