Croissants at Bon Temps | Matthew Kang
The Arts District’s new morning pastry destination gets going at the crack of dawn
Sunlight cracks through the makeshift alley between the Arts District’s new Firehouse Hotel and Bon Temps, a side-facing restaurant and daytime pastry destination from Lincoln Carson that opened in June. The two establishments are unrelated, but to the untrained eye it might seem the firehouse-turned-boutique hotel and suave multi-tiered dining room are operating in tandem. Carson pokes out from the shadows of the alley with staff in tow, surging into Bon Temps with the energy of multiple coffees. In fact the whole team has been here since the crack of dawn, or perhaps earlier, to make some of the city’s most compelling new croissants, breads, and pastries for the Arts District.
The surrounding area doesn’t quite seem like it would be a hotbed of pastry, but Arts District stalwart Bread Lounge is just a few doors away baking away hundreds of loaves and pastries every morning. To the west, Manufactory’s absolutely massive baking operation, designed to feed the entire city with buttery carbs, fills the developing Row project with the incomparably wonderful aromas of baking sourdough. Carson isn’t trying to compete. He’s here with a small staff, including Neity Venegas, one of the bakers at Bon Temps, who’s adding the final seasonings to the an “everything bagel” croissant.
Bon Temps doesn’t need to be an all-day restaurant, but Carson designed the multi-tiered space to accommodate an enduring daytime crowd on its main floor. The restaurant originally opened with only dinner, but has since expanded to breakfast through lunch service to serve a neighborhood now bustling with office workers, including the massive Warner Music Group headquarters across the street. Comfy couches, a big communal table, and some bar-height seats gives it the feeling of a swanky boutique hotel lounge. It’s even more daring considering Firehouse, an actual boutique hotel built into a historic decommissioned firehouse, boasts its own lobby lounge and coffee bar with morning pastries just next door.
The redundancy doesn’t seem to matter to Carson, who utilized a separate prep kitchen opposite the main kitchen on the other side of the dining room to build out a full baking and pastry area. With Bread Lounge, Firehouse, Bon Temps, and Stumptown Coffee sitting on the same block, this could be the most caffeinated, and carb-laden breakfast area in Los Angeles. Enrique Olvera from Cosme and Pujol is coming too, though it’s unclear if he’ll also be doing early morning hours just yet.
Carson transforms the restaurant’s evening raw bar into an alluring pastry case by the morning, stuffing it with an array of breads, croissants, Danishes, cookies, and bagels. Everything comes out with painstaking detail in Bon Temps’ baking area, which Carson designed himself.
Anyone who’s been to Superba Food and Bread would be familiar with Carson’s work. He designed the entire pastry and bread menu there, with the intention of scaling croissants and bread into multiple locations, but before that he spent years doing pastry with Michael Mina’s restaurant group and at Le Bernardin, Picasso at the Bellagio, and Daniel Boulud at Wynn. Carson is the industry veteran trying to make a big splash with this ambitious all-day restaurant in Arts District, but for now he’s been concerned with making croissants every morning.
The process begins with a poolish starter, a high-hydration yeast starter that takes 10 to 12 hours to develop before mixing into dough. Slicing in room-temperature butter, he mixes dough gently and allows it to come together before weighing and setting into the laminator. It’s not a process unique to Bon Temps, but most good croissants emerge from this slow, methodical process of cutting in butter and laminating.
What separates Bon Temps is a monkish dedication to simplicity and quality. Unlike Bread Lounge and Manufactory, Carson isn’t making these pastries for wholesale distribution. He can oversee the entire process, maintain quality and often doing the morning pastry work himself, which seems like a colossal waste of time for someone with his experience. Venegas and the rest of the pastry team carry the same culture of precision, relishing the somewhat menial but still important task of brushing croissants with egg wash or Danishes with syrup.
Another advantage of Bon Temps is the small baking space, with its dedicated baking equipment. Separate proofers beneath the ovens ensure a proper, temperature-controlled rise while a cylindrical oven can be fully programmed to meet the baking specifications of numerous pastries depending on ingredient or preparation.
Carson uses a gentle, Japanese-made horsehair brush to evenly coat a fresh batch of croissants with an egg wash. He places the gorgeous rolled laminated pastry into the oven, taking them out after about 20 minutes, give or take a few minutes, revealing a luscious tawny brown color. The result is something that balances the extreme flakiness and butteriness of a classic French croissant with a balanced, woven structure of the laminated dough.
The evenness of the outer layers is what’s really remarkable here, yielding shatteringly thin crumbs that flitter onto the table (or one’s shirt) like golden snowflakes. To anyone visiting town, this is destination croissant, up there with Tartine’s fine croissants and Proof Bakery’s pastries up in Atwater Village. As the clock approaches eight, Carson takes out a fresh batch of kouign amann, a buttery, syrupy pastry with a caramelized base, in case the utter simplicity of a classic croissant isn’t enough.
If there’s a common thread through Carson’s pastries at Bon Temps, it’s that everything has the exacting attention to detail one would expect from an ambitious fine dining restaurant, but in the affordable package of a morning pastry.
Bon Temps serves pastries and coffee every morning beginning at 8 a.m. 712 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90021.
Source: Eater LA – All – Matthew Kang