Tiny like its namesake, Napoleon Bakery in Annandale entices with a blend of Korean and French baked goods. Its refrigerated display cabinet showcases a variety of elaborate cakes, but regulars praise the basics, including the house-made packaged breads and cookies that line the two aisles.
Owner Chong Cho, who opened the bakery in 2005 after working in the business for two decades, bakes products that appeal to American and Asian palates alike.
Red and white bean products are meant to fill the void of traditional Korean pastries, while "Americans like fried things and madeleines," he says.
Napoleon's products are baked at lower temperatures to preserve flavors, and they aren't as sweet as American goodies. But they're just as satisfying. The light, flaky croissant, less buttery than the traditional French version, goes perfectly with coffee. So-called Ugly Corn is a raisin-studded take on a corn biscuit. Unlike traditional American sugar doughnuts, Napoleon's sugar-coated version has the dense feel and taste of funnel cake, with a thick filling of white bean paste.
Bing soo, Korea's whimsical take on the snow cone, comes in several varieties, including strawberry ice cream topped with cut fruit, and coffee ice cream atop coffee shaved ice. Topped with frosted flakes and Pocky biscuit sticks, the treats are fun to share with a companion at one of the bakery's few front tables after dinner.
Night owls will find much to appreciate about Napoleon Bakery. Cho keeps the shop open late, reasoning that "after dinner, people need breakfast for tomorrow morning. They come in and sit with coffee or our special Asian teas." Indeed, bubble tea is a sweet way to end a night out in Annandale.
-- Erin Hartigan (April 24, 2012)