On the Menu: Ooh la la! La Clochette du Coin – the name rings a bell!
If you happen to be strolling along Pacific Beach’s Cass Street on any given weekend and notice a baguette-long line trailing down the block to another county, it’ll probably lead you to La Clochette du Coin.
The name translates from French for “the bell around the corner,” although a cacophonous-sounding cow bell once stationed at the entrance of the quaint little French-themed eatery and boulangerie no longer exists.
“We had to remove the bell because it was too loud and disturbing the neighborhood,” said Sean Le, culinary director in charge of restaurant operations, who is now on the lookout for a more refined butler’s bell in keeping with the essence of the restaurant’s nomenclature.
Le, raised in the Bay Area with family ties in Saigon, Vietnam, first learned classic French pastry techniques in Northern California with his baking buddy Justin Gaspar (now head baker at the café).
A hankering to expand his repertoire, Le continued his tutelage in culinary arts in New York and Italy, and was then actively pursued and eventually recruited in the spring of 2019 by Karine Beers and Willy Wu Jye Hwa. The French-speaking brother and sister restaurant duo from Madagascar with Chinese ancestry wanted to expand La Clochette, their limited service La Jollan coffee shop and add a bakery to the mix along with a more extensive food menu.
Want to visit?
La Clochette du Coin
Address: 4680 Cass Street, Pacific Beach
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Sundays. Closed for major holidays, including New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The new Pacific Beach venture and tag-team bakery called Hommage Bakehouse opened September 2019, with a flourish and instant fan following. Alas, the fledgling eatery was soon closed during lengthy COVID lockdowns, but has resumed full-force with pre-pandemic energy and momentum. Hommage, swelling like a mixing bowl of quick-rising yeast, soon outgrew the current space and went solo, relocating to a brick and mortar in Sorrento Valley, with bakery items still offered at La Clochette du Coin and farmers markets around town.
Le describes the menu as modern French with a sprinkling of California and global influences.
“Everything has a French foundation built around other cultural ingredients like Vietnamese, Italian, Korean and even Cajun,” Le said. “I like to use a lot of fish oils and lemon grass. Generally, the French dishes are fused with whatever we desire for that season.”
Gaspar’s melt-in-your-mouth pastries are utilized in many dishes, especially the sublime croissants, whether plain butter, almond, chocolate or uncured ham and cheddar with fresh rosemary.
The Breakfast Croissant is a popular dish filled with big gamey bacon from Texas, local eggs from Hilliker’s Ranch in Lakeside and topped with avocado and Thai chili aioli.
The Croissant Benedict with classic, house-made French hollandaise, perfectly poached eggs and smoked ham is another hum-dinger.
Le’s fave is the Almond Pesto Croissant stacked with buffalo burrata, Hilliker’s eggs and arugula dressed in Champagne vinaigrette.
A couple of other top picks include the pastrami-spiced, cured Ahi Tuna Baguette Sandwich, “that’s light and fresh, yet satisfying and dense,” and the Moroccan Crab Curry Couscous Marrakesh accessorized with Korean pickled cauliflower and fresh cilantro.
While there isn’t a kid’s menu, Le assures parents that the bountiful and casual choices are definitely pleasing to young palates.
The pastries change seasonally with a bright, cheery Earl Grey and Meyer Lemon Kouign-Amann kicking off the springtime line-up. The sweet, buttery Breton cake, a kind of high-brow croissant with classic flaky layers boasts a goodly ratio of butters and sugars that caramelize in a soft, gooey center.
There are also beignets and other indulgences that focus on the classic French technique of lamination, such as, levain sourdough bread. These treats wash down nicely with the Elderflower Arnold Palmer for a cool, immune boosting, refreshing sip, or a pair of seasonal lattes like the eye-popping Ube Caramel made with a bright purple yam, and the Elderflower Matcha.
La Clochette du Coin is actually known for its traditional Rose Lavender Latte and the sublime Vanilla Latte infused with actual Madagascar vanilla beans imported from the owners’ homeland.
The eatery is also known for the high-quality ingredients, unforgettable flavors and scratch-made sauces, syrups, vinaigrettes, nut butters and pestos that amp up the authenticity of dishes.
Fruits and vegetables are organic and mostly supplied by local farms through Specialty Produce, rich, organic butters are imported from France and New Zealand, and flours from Best Coast Organic Farm in Arizona.
La Clochette du Coin also serves up divine sides of ocean breezes and salty sea air on the dog-friendly outdoor patio where furry, four-legged patrons can chow down on complimentary treats from Noah’s Pet Market.
The indoor space is cozy, casual yet limited in seating “and logistically designed for customers to take out assorted baked goods and elevated meals to enjoy at home,” Le said.
But you might be lucky and nab a seat in the modern eatery with sleek, white marble tables, powder-painted steel chairs the same color, and soft, natural lighting streaming through the ceiling to floor windows providing, “a millennial vibe with a certain kind of emptiness that allows your eyes to gravitate to the display case filled with homemade pastries and other packaged items,” Le said.
Check out breakfast and lunch happy hour specials starting at noon Mondays through Thursdays, along with specialty items offered for celebratory events like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
Dubbed by San Diego Eater as the hottest breakfast restaurant for two years straight, coupled with Gaspar’s winning performance on Hulu’s “Baker’s Dozen” competition have helped to create a devoted and growing fan club of customers from neighborhood residents and seasonal tourists to cyclists up and down the coast, and generally customers of all ages who appreciate, “homey dishes made with organic, uncommon ingredients offered in a familiar medium,” Le said.
“I like foods that remind you of the family dinner table, but elevated,” Le said. “My job is to feed you; if you come out hungry and not satisfied, I haven’t done my job.”
Beers and Wu Jye Hwa are currently scouting a location in northern San Diego for their second eatery (this one including a dinner concept) slated to open next year, along with another Hommage Bakehouse in Mission Valley.
The team at La Clochette du Coin is dedicated to providing all the bells and whistles of a great culinary experience, this time with a welcoming, melodious, chiming one at the entrance.
Recipe from La Clochette du Coin
• 454 grams of fresh basil (about 1 pound)
• 30 grams of fresh garlic
• 200 grams of toasted almonds
• 600 grams of extra virgin olive oil
• 75 grams of Pecorino cheese
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Squeeze of fresh lime juice
1) Place ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend on low speed to chunky consistency or desired smoothness. Do not over blend.
2) Refrigerate in a Mason jar.
3) Toss with your favorite pasta, or use as a condiment for sandwiches, vegetable and egg dishes.
Recipe courtesy of Sean Le, La Clochette du Coin