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April 29, 2017

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Food review: This charming and discreet patisserie in Taipei is reinventing French classics

Le Bleu Ballon is perfectly oddball. Instead of being set up in one of Taipei's French patisserie hubs like East District or Zhongshan, the shop is charmingly hidden in a discreet alleyway. With the quiet neighborhood surroundings, it's easy to forget that Shilin Night Market is only a 10-minute walk away.

"Le Bleu Ballon: A Somewhat French-style Patisserie," reads the small sign in front of the shop, signaling a "deviance" from classic French offerings — that something playful and unconventional is in store.

I don't know what traditional pastry chefs in France would think about this Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef's take on the classic Opera cake, a French favorite, but I love it. Le Bleu Ballon's Berry Opera (NT$160) is made with layers of hand-crafted blueberry mouse, yogurt cheese, almond cake and French shortbread cookies.

It's not overly sweet, and the berry element adds a sweet, tangy contrast to the velvety yogurt cream. If you're a fan of cream and tangy fruits like I am, you'll agree the Opera is top-notch. (And I take this cake — my favorite — very seriously; my friends can testify to my maniacal hunt for the "original" Opera cake on our trip to Paris. But that's a different story.)

I recommend their tarts and cream-based desserts over their sugary cakes with berry fillings, which are a little too sweet for me. The staff are particularly enthusiastic about their mixed berry cream eclairs (NT$150), but I didn't have the chance to try them.

For something more traditional, try their apple pie (NT$70), a staple adored by their French customers. I heated mine in the oven for an afternoon snack the next day, and it was so good my sister couldn't resist fighting me for half of it — next time I want to treat myself, I am getting this again and topping it with a scoop of luxurious ice cream.

The sunlit patisserie sits up to 15 people and serves around 10 pastries each day, and they change by season. Popular items like their Bailey's tiramisu (NT$160) and lemon tart (NT$140) can sell out quickly, so I suggest checking the shop's Facebook page to see what they have and reserve desired cakes on the phone before visiting.

Craving something savory? Their quiches hit the spot. Nothing's more disappointing than a quiche with a bland filling and soggy, tasteless crust. Le Bleu Ballon's quiche, however, has a creamy souffle-like cheese-and-egg filling, and the exterior is just right — flaky and golden. If quiches aren't your thing, there's always Shilin Night Market right around the corner.

Key takeaways:

► Go for the tarts and cream-based choices

► Call ahead if you're looking for something specific

Le Bleu Ballon

► No. 152-2, Hougang St, Shilin District, Taipei City 台北市士林區後港街152-2號

► Wednesday to Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

► (02) 881-9691

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