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Restaurant Review: Madeleine

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A Madeleine employee stocks freshly baked goods.

Miniature custard tarts garnished with fresh fruit, giant loaves of homemade bread and freshly baked pastries sit inside a tall glass case as customers study each item, trying to decide which one to choose. At first glance, Madeleine may seem like a typical European bakery and tea shop, with its French name painted in cursive at the store’s front. But the bakery, which also sells sandwiches, coffee, fruit smoothies and frozen yogurt, has a distinctly Asian twist that reminds me of bakeries in the International District.

Last week, Daniel Yoo and his wife Yerie opened Madeleine at the corner of Northeast 42nd Street and University Way Northeast. The couple also owns a bakery in Tacoma, and wanted to set up another one in the U-District.

Madeleine offers a generous variety of pastries that changes each day — a variety that will have students stopping by on their way to class to see what’s in the shop’s display cases. Baked goods like the red-bean bread — a sweet, soft bread filled with red-bean paste — start at $1.50 each. I had the custard-cream bread, also $1.50, and immediately decided I could eat this for breakfast every day. Which, coming from me, a girl who prefers savory foods to sweet ones, means a lot. The soft bread is filled with a sweet custard cream, which makes this treat similar to a Boston-cream doughnut — except this custard bread has a freshly baked, hand-crafted taste. The shop’s popular fruit tarts, at $2 each, are worth the price and made fresh each day. The miniature tarts have flaky crusts topped with sweet yellow custard, whipped cream, and slices of mandarin oranges and fresh kiwi and strawberry, a refreshing combination and a great dessert.

As I sat, gorging myself on my pastries, I noticed that many people were ordering colorful fruit smoothies — Madeleine’s “frappes.” Customers can choose from the ice-blended coffee, caramel mocha, or frappes with real fruit like mango, raspberry, blueberry or strawberry. The first time I came to Madeleine — only a few days after it opened — I ordered a mango frappe and was disappointed by the small chunks of ice that hadn’t been blended well. However, I could taste the fresh mango, which was a good thing. But unfortunately, the mango didn’t seem very ripe and probably contributed to my disappointment with the drink. A couple of days later, I stopped by the shop on a hot afternoon and ordered a strawberry frappe and was much happier with the drink’s consistency and flavor. There was no saccharine sweetener in this shake, just some milk, honey, ice and of course, strawberries. The moral of this story? When ordering a fresh-fruit frappe from Madeleine, choose fruit that’s in season and hope that it’s ripe.

When I first stepped into Madeleine, I was taken by surprise with the little shop’s layout and design. The owners had ripped out the giant booths and painted over any remnants of Malabars, the Indian-Pakistani restaurant that occupied this space months ago. Open for only a week so far, the shop has an unfinished, mix-and-match feel to it that I hope will be finished over time. The unpainted tables, cabinets and railings clash with the shop’s more “refined” decorations, like the hanging paper lanterns and inviting display cases. Madeleine has plenty of tables for customers to sit at, and plays low-key Korean or classical music. The shop’s staff is friendly and inviting, the service fast — customers will feel welcomed by the warm atmosphere that Madeleine’s staff creates.

I think that this building is charmed with good-food luck. I loved the Indian restaurant that used to occupy this space, and now I’m growing even fonder of Madeleine’s menu. I’ve visited Madeleine three times so far, and every time I stop by, I’m always excited to see something different in the display cases or on the menu. In my second visit to the restaurant, I learned that the shop serves sandwiches and paninis for lunch, priced from $5.99 to $9.99. Madeleine serves traditional sandwiches, like ham and cheese with special sauces, or more unique sandwiches, like the chicken katsu sandwich with mayonnaise, lettuce, onions and the owners’ specially made katsu sauce. In my third visit, I learned that Madeleine’s makes its own frozen yogurt and serves it with fresh-fruit toppings, which costs $2.50 for a small size. Madeleine’s generous menu and always-changing variety will have me stopping by many more times. I’m excited to see what else this shop has to offer.

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Reach reporter Kat Chow at weekender@dailyuw.com.

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