The Castro is about to have their dream corner café, bistro, and bakery come to the neighborhood: LE MARAIS BAKERY will be opening in a couple of weeks in the former Samovar location. It’s a sunny corner, and the south-facing space is so inviting, full of windows and light.
I got a walk-through with owners Patrick Ascaso and Joanna Pulcini-Ascaso, and the location is a love letter to all the bakeries they adore in Paris, as well as Copenhagen and Stockholm. It has a timeless, classic look, a bit spare but with European approachability and beautiful finishes. There’s an Italian marble counter at the bakery counter in the back of the space, with a tiled front. There are lots of brass finishes, a dove gray palette (like their Chestnut Street location), and light-stained oak floors. The Formica-topped tables are paired with bistro-style chairs, and some glowing globe lights overhead. Many of the pieces were sourced with Chateau Sonoma, but the vintage 1930s “café” sign belonged to Patrick, and it finally has a home.
There is a back room with a communal table (just like in the Samovar days) that’s perfect for a group. Outdoor seating is also in the works.
There was originally no plan for a full kitchen, but when they discovered a former exhaust path, they decided to get permitted to build out a kitchen (hence the delays). There is a gleaming rotisserie, and like their Chestnut location, they will feature meat plates, salads, and sandwiches, with your choice of prime rib, chicken, and lamb, plus a vegetable option.
The prime rib has a thyme, rosemary, and garlic rub, and you know you want the horseradish cream with it—you can also get it with eggs for a decadent brunch! The Mary’s chicken is brined (with piment d’Espelette) and comes with a Savora mustard (a nostalgic mustard for Patrick), which they add harissa to—I am now obsessed. You can get a quarter or half chicken with potatoes, and they will also be adding something new: sausage, as well as raclette over potatoes and broccoli. Oh, and no ordering at the counter here: they will be offering table service!
The menu will be duplicating Le Marais’s extensive offerings in the Marina, with choose-your-own breakfast bowls, numerous egg dishes, toasts, tartines, salads, sandwiches, and croques (theirs has an unusual spin—instead of using flour for their béchamel, which they found to be excessive when poured over bread, they use pastry cream). Their croques also come with market-fresh greens in a mustardy vintaigrette. They are very focused on using quality ingredients for everything they make, from the butter to the ham to the arugula!
And then there are all the baked goods! It’s a staggering selection of viennoiserie (croissants, pain au chocolat, and I love their ham, Gruyère, and mustard version), classic patisserie (seasonal tarts, macarons), and then there are the handmade breads, like their fabulous crusty levain loaves and baguettes, and cookies! A seasonal Liège waffle is in the works, and croquettes too. Yes, you’re all doomed and ruined.
Coffee service is from Sightglass (wait until you see the gray La Marzocco espresso machine, so chic), plus nitro cold brew, nitro tea (matcha, chai), and there are wines, too, plus beer from Fort Point on tap and more. It will be open 7am-7pm daily. Follow along on Instagram for the opening news since I will be away on vacation! 498 Sanchez St. at 18th St.
Some additional exciting news in the Le Marais world: not only are they working to open a production facility by this August on Sutter, but they are also expanding to Mill Valley! They are opening a bakery and café location in a warehouse on E. Blithedale and plan to start construction in their half of the warehouse in September, with plans to open late 2017.
The 2,000-square-foot space will include 45-65 seats inside and 30 outside, plus parking. They plan to offer early dinner, which will be nice since the neighborhood doesn’t have that many options. I’ll keep you posted on this as well. Le Marais team, I hope you have lots of coffee nearby at all times this year! 250 E. Blithedale Ave. at Sycamore, Mill Valley.
One more thing to note: their original plan for the Le Marais restaurant at Ghirardelli Square is no longer happening, but their pop-up bakery there remains busy as ever.
The welcoming and timeless space at Le Marais Bakery Castro. Photo: © tablehopper.com.