An uptown paradise for crème brûlée lovers
This neighbourhood newbie is devoted to France’s greatest dessert
There’s something so satisfying about cracking into a pot of crème brûlée. First one must suss out the best entry point, then comes a quick and precise tap of a spoon’s edge and finally — crack! — a swoop into the custardy depths. It’s hard to find a dessert that delivers quite the same panache as the French classic. And it wasn’t until now that Torontonians had a shop devoted to the luscious caramel-topped custard.
FROM CARS TO CRÈME
Daniel Wong wasn’t exactly on the path to opening a crème brûlée café. Originally hailing from Vancouver, Wong built a career for himself painting cars out west. Although he’d always had a deep appreciation for food, his cooking skills were non-existent. But working in an industry known for its homophobia eventually took a toll on Wong, who identifies as gay, and he realized a career change was in order.
“I never knew how to cook, so I decided to study culinary arts,” Wong says. Jumping into a French culinary program, Wong figured that, even if he wasn’t taken with the food industry, the course wouldn’t be in vain. Instead, the budding chef found himself obsessed with crème brûlée. “I was just fascinated by it, and the torching part,” Wong says, drawing parallels between the two lines of work he’s partaken in. “It’s a good canvas to work on. With cars, you customize your own paint, whereas with crème brûlée, you mix the batter and make it into whatever you want.”
KEEP IT LOCAL
A few years and a move to Toronto later, Wong’s shop can be found just off the main stretch of St. Clair West. Inside, the café is laid-back, with high ceilings, custom artwork and plenty of seats. Wong himself can be found behind the counter, darting back and forth between customers, scooping Liège waffle batter into a hot press and, yes, torching crème brûlées to order.
A menu of the available flavours sits next to the cash. Sweet toothed patrons can order iterations of the dessert in everything from white chocolate rose to lychee vodka to, of course, a classic vanilla bean.
Although the building blocks of the dessert — cream, eggs and sugar — are simple, the cornerstone really is temperature control. “You can’t rush crème brûlée,” Wong says. “The lower the temperature, the longer the time, the smoother your product is going to be.” With that silky consistency perfected, Wong is able to play with flavours. The Vietnamese coffee version is infused with a very intense French roast and condensed milk, whereas the ube option pairs the purple yam with a coconut milk mixture.
“My customers are usually pretty excited,” Wong says without any airs. “It’s a whole experience.”
“It’s life changing!” pipes up a customer on her way out. And there you have it.
Craque de Crème, 1360 Bathurst St., 647-699-8233
Owner Daniel Wong and his classic vanilla bean crème brûlée