Canelé – Los Angeles, CA
Let’s get straight to the point: I’m obsessed with Canelé’s Baked Pancake with Meyer Lemon Custard. A simple concoction of flour, eggs, sugar, milk, and too much butter, it’s so good I’ve spent the past four Sundays in a row hunched over the ethereal puffs, wondering if I’d discovered nirvana.
Like many discoveries, I stumbled across greatness by accident. The pancake sits inconspicuously on the menu, snuck in between a salad and sticky bun under the “sides” section. On my first pass, I missed it and had a forgettable fennel-cured salmon with creme fraiche on pumpernickel. I was a few bites in when someone else’s order of baked pancakes caught my nose and eye. The alluring scent of butter and sugar practically strong-armed me into ordering one on the spot.
Fresh out of the oven, the poof of a pancake stands nearly as tall as it is wide. Swelled and toasted at the edges, its golden center covered by a generous dollop of fragrant lemon custard, it looks and tastes like a cross between a souffle, popover, and pancake. Though the journey from the oven to the table is short, the dish visibly deflates with each passing second. A squeeze of lemon and I quickly dig in.
The law of diminishing returns does not apply here— the pancake seems to get better and better each time I order it. It’s simultaneously sweet and tart, light and eggy, and with a smear of lemon custard, represents all that is good in this world.
Canelé’s brunch menu also has other delights: the french toast, four inches high and well-browned on the edges, is otherworldly in both sight and taste. Thick house-cured bacon, crisp on the outside with a slight chew on the inside, is sublime. The restaurant’s fried chicken sandwich, served with an enormous slab of pickled green tomato, would make a Southern grandmother proud.
But at the end of the day, it’s really all about the baked pancake. This past weekend, I brought my aunt, grandma, and sister to try it for the first time. Amidst all the other food, we ordered two pancakes: one for me and one for everyone else. The table fell silent as taste buds quivered with glee. Their verdict? The best $4.50 you’ll ever spend.