The French Pastry Shop returns to its former glory

The French Pastry Shop has been a fixture on La Jolla Blvd. in Bird Rock for many years. Sadly, it had fallen on hard times recently. Now, thanks to new owner Veronica Bokaie - a native of France - this French bakery and restaurant is back on track. The shop has a new look, a refurbished interior and patio, and authentic French cuisine and baked goods.

The welcoming ambiance starts with the glass cases that greet you at the door. They're filled with wonderful cakes, pastries and cookies, along with a wide selection of fresh breads, such as fig bread, olive bread, croissants and traditional French loaves.

The main dining area features lovely curtains on the windows, striped upholstery on the chairs, and cozy tables. In the rear of the restaurant, there's a wine bar, with an appealing assortment of wines.

The long-neglected side patio is very inviting now, and the breakfast crowd is taking full advantage of this alfresco dining spot. It's a great place to linger over a cup of coffee or espresso.

Breakfast and lunch are still the most popular meals served at The French Pastry Shop, and the menu features all the old favorites, along with some new recipes and exciting daily specials.

From 8 a.m. to noon, you can enjoy a variety of croissant sandwiches, Danish pastries and typical French pastries. The sandwiches come with garlic potatoes and mornay sauce. Among these sandwich choices are cheese ($5.50), ham and cheese ($6), eggs and bacon ($7), and smoked salmon ($8). A garden salad with red onions, fresh capers and dill creme fraiche comes with these croissants.

A nice selection of omelets are also popular breakfast selections. They include goat cheese veggies, Mediterranean, Lorraine (ham and cheese) and Denver omelet, and they're all priced at $7.95.

Eggs Benedict comes in three styles, including salmon Benedict($10.50). Likewise for the traditional French crepes. You can get crepe Suzette, with orange and Grand Marnier, for $6.50. The Pastry Shop even offers a dessert crepe with chocolate, fresh berries and chantilly for $6.

The lunch crowd can indulge in the chef's signature French onion soup topped with melted Swiss cheese ($6.95), or opt for the soup du jour ($4.99). The salad selection is tempting as well, and all the dressings are home-made.

Sandwiches come with a small salad and range in price from $7.50 to $8.50. Among the sandwich selections are steak with carmelized onions and sauteed bell peppers on fresh panini bread, grilled chicken and turkey pesto, just to name a few.

The lunch menu offers even more crepe dishes than the breakfast menu, and the delicate crepes are always made to order. Choose your filling, from spinach and cheese ($7.50), smoked salmon ($8.95), and strawberry and cream ($6.50) to chocolate and chantilly cream ($6).

For a delightful and very French lunch, try the French platter ($10). It includes pate, cheese, and salami, and it makes a marvelous meal with some fresh French bread.

For three nights every week, The French Pastry Shop takes on a different persona. It even calls itself by a different name: Leana Restaurant. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, the restaurant serves wonderful French fare such as traditional beef bourguignon ($25), pork tenderloin with apple chutney ($19), and steamed Dover sole with fresh pesto sauce ($18).

We loved the beef bourguignon, a classic dish with marinated beef, red wine, caramelized onions, bacon and julienne roasted potatoes. Another favorite was the pork tenderloin with a balsamic reduction sauce. The apple chutney was the perfect accompaniment for this dish. Fish lovers can choose from the sole, marinated salmon with fresh dill cream ($19) and Chilean sea bass with champagne beurre blanc sauce ($29). The chef even offers grilled skirt steak with port wine sauce ($18) for dinner.

Except for the beef bourguignon, which comes with its own vegetable assortment, all the main courses come with one side dish of your choice. The sides include potato galette, cauliflower gratin, assorted caramelized vegetables and ratatouille. They all sound great, but we can vouch for the cauliflower gratin. It was exceptional.

The appetizer list is just as impressive at Leana. We enjoyed the duck salad with mesclun greens, crumbled goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette ($13), but the goat cheese galette with melted goat cheese atop brioche ($10) is just as delicious. The avocado cocktail ($12) is another good choice. A half avocado is stuffed with seasoned bay shrimp and served on a bed of greens.

Don't even try to resist the dessert tray. It is chock full of authentic French pastries, including opera cake, creme brulee and other delectables. The cookies and cakes are wonderful, too, and the service is as friendly as the atmosphere.

It's nice to see The French Pastry Shop back to its former glory and serving delicious French food and pastries. There's parking right outside the door, and everything is available to go, so be sure to stop in for a meal and take home some bread and pastries while you're at it.

The French Pastry Shop is at 5550 La Jolla Blvd. Call (858) 454-9094.

   
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