Beyond pastries

Estelle’s Patisserie

901 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the French language that can make the most mundane mellifluous. Who wouldn’t want to spend several hours at the laundromat if it were called a blanchisserie? Even the most inveterate vegetarian might stop by the pork butcher if the establishment were called a charcuterie? One might even wolf down headcheese if it were called tête pressée. Then again. This is preamble to saying that Estelle’s Patisserie at 901 K Street—alliteratively enough the former home of Danielle’s Creperie & Gallery—has a built-in allure, which is enhanced by the winsome Laura, one of the servers, and a menu offering more than just pastries.

With its big glass windows, marble tables and light wooden chairs, there’s an airy atmosphere, casual and cozy. It can be a bit too cozy around noon when the tables fill, and the line to order snakes down one wall. Sitting outside on the mall ain’t the Champs Elysees but there’s plenty of intriguing foot traffic that ebbs and gets edgier as the afternoon wears down.

Estelle’s offers an espresso bar and a wide assortment of teas and muffins and rolls for the breakfast crowd as well as sweets for the sweet-toothed, including an assortment of DayGlo macarons. For the lunch-inclined there are soups, salads, sandwiches and meat or meatless quiche. And while the soup and sandwiches are not as varied or nuanced as those of Daniel Pont at the previous La Bonne Soupe Café, the 12-inch Brie, prosciutto and arugula on a fresh and flaky baguette—other than not being wrapped in white paper—could be something purchased at Montparnasse Train Station in Paris and contentedly munched between sips of rosé on the one-hour ride to Tours. One of the authentic touches here is the spare—often nonexistent—use of condiments. No mayo or mustard slathered on these sandwiches. The smoked salmon is enlivened by dill and the flavor of its croissant. The Brie, prosciutto and sharp arugula are offset by the sweet baguette. Like a traditional salade lyonnaise in which four dots of mustard comprise the sole counterpoint to the frisée, lardoons and egg. Similarly, Estelle’s roast beef and Gruyère with red onion is a sandwich in which the roast beef is almost incidental to the flavor of the brioche it is wedged between. The ripe red grapes in the tuna salad add both color and a tasty contrast. This sandwich is best on the roll with the nuts and cranberries.

Speaking of fresh, a fruit salad often tastes like prefab—like the contents have been waiting, steadily losing flavor. Not Estelle’s. There’s nothing prefab about this crisp, bull’s-eye sweet mix that includes blueberries red grapes and strawberries. Equally refreshing is the fresh-squeezed passion-fruit lemonade, which belies its handmade qualities by being a bit heavier on passion fruit one day (sweeter) and more lemony on another. However, on every occasion it is deliriously frosty. Not quite a throat freeze but wondrously close. Living in a household that is picky about the caliber of its tomato bisque earns Estelle’s more kudos. Theirs is thick and richly flavored, and, in a nice touch, a puff pastry floats in the tureen as accompaniment. While the portion is mountainous, the pasta salad comes off a bit bland. Partly that’s because the chief additive to the elbow pasta are squares of fresh tomato. Some green bell pepper and red onion bits, sliced olives and shredded Parmesan are also present but the overall mildness makes enjoyment of it equally mild.

Finally, everything from the pastries to the espresso to the sandwiches and salads is surprisingly reasonable. The fruit salad is $3.95. Half a sandwich and soup is $7.25. A caprese baguette is $5.25. Ham and cheese is $5.75. There’s a lot to like about Estelle’s—except dinner. Doors close at 6 p.m.