All right. Caribbean-themed dance club: check. Lexus dealership: check. Vegas-style VIP room: check. How to round out the gamut of hedonistic delights on a less-than-quaint stretch of Southwest Canyon Road? A Euro-style, dessert-centric cafe, bien sur. And judging from the shop's busy seating area, Emilie Dessert Cafe is a welcome addition to this commercial strip—one not likely to be found on any list of Portland's top 10 "must-see" neighborhoods.
Opened last July by sister-and-brother team Wenny and Wisman Santoso, the dated-looking cafe (think Tuscan shabby chic circa 1994) not only keeps the early-morning coffee and pastry crowd happy, but considerately stays open well after dinner time, when we cake eaters are most likely on the prowl for chocolate, sugar, cream and butter.
On a recent visit, we were knocked out by an espresso mocha cake ($5.95), a generous slab consisting of a chocolate cookie base, a shockingly thick layer of ganache, and Irish cream-soaked chocolate cake, crowned with a thick tier of mascarpone espresso mousse—all resting upon a healthy drizzle of crème anglaise. Less assertive but every bit as moist and fulfilling is the coconut lemon cake, raspberry jelly, whipped cream and lemon-soaked white cake, covered in frosting and shredded coconut.
The glass display case also holds hearty chunks of raisin-studded bread pudding ($5.95), thick pecan bars, and a peach custard tart ($2.50) with a dense, buttery crust that stands on its own merit. The almond croissant ($2.25), with its crisp exterior, flaky layers and mildly sweet almond-paste center, is fantastic. A muffin-sized financier ($1.95) scores big points with its unexpected eggy moistness.
Less remarkable is the cafe's selection of cookies; shortbread rounds sandwiching amaretto, jam or pumpkin fillings contain merely a trace of their promised treasure, preventing them from being nearly as interesting or delicious as they sound. The apple "strudel" was only just OK; it's always disappointing when phyllo dough takes the place of the Austrian pastry's traditional dough. Unfortunately, Emilie's is no exception to this egregious crime against strudel.
While Emilie is probably not one of Portland's sexiest pâtisseries or date-night dessert joints, what it lacks in hip decor it makes up for in refreshing hospitality and graciousness. On each visit, the owners and servers not only answered our many queries about their desserts patiently, they did so with an unbridled "joie de cake." In other words: This is a labor of love, and it shows.
- Order this: Espresso mocha cake with crÃ¨me anglaise with Stumptown coffee.
- Best deal: Almond financiers.
- Iâll pass: Shortbread sandwich cookies sound great. They are not.
EAT: 8680 SW Canyon Road, 206-5576, emiliedessertcafe.com. 7 am-5 pm Monday, 7 am-8 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 7:30 am-3 pm Sunday. $ Inexpensive.