If you haven't been out and about much lately, you might have easily missed both the shuttering of Jackson Square's Michelin-starred restaurant Nico (sad face) and the subsequent opening of Maison Nico, a Parisian-style epicerie and patisserie turning out the most fanciful and exquisite pastries (drool face) this side of Seine.
With an array of creamy flans, flaky brioche, toothsome pâtés en croûte, and jarred terrines taunting us to take boxes of them away (not to mention nationwide shipping), the jewel-box shop seems perfectly timed for holiday gifting and face-stuffing.
Maison Nico's Jackson Square storefront.(Photography by Sarah Chorey)
If you're behind on the whole Nico trajectory, here's the quick backstory. A year or so ago, the fine dining restaurant's founding team—chef/owner Nicolas (Nico) Delaroque and his wife Andrea, who managed the front of the house—were ready to take a break. They handed the space over to chef Jordan Guevara (Coi, Lazy Bear) to build out his own temporary concept alongside the Delaroques' business partner and sommelier/restaurateur Paul Einbund (also of The Morris). The pop-up-of-sorts, called Gap Year at Nico, was barely underway when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Long story short, the doors were boarded up, the people went home, and the team wondered what the hell they would do next—certainly fine dining was not currently an option. A takeout-friendly concept would be the only way to go.
Delaroque, who grew up on the outskirts of Paris, had always wanted to open an epicerie—you know, one of those French neighborhood markets that are luxurious in that oh-so-French way, stocked with buttery, savory, and sweet delectables and wines all best carted home in the basket of a vintage bicycle.
Einbund and his wife, Vanessa, had fallen in love with a particular epicerie in Champagne during a trip in November 2019 ("We're obsessed with epiceries," he swoons); minds melded, and Maison Nico was born.
Chef Nico Delaroque making pastry at Maison Nico.(Photography by Sarah Chorey)
Delaroque dove into fine-tuning his pastry craft, learning new techniques and mastering traditional recipes, and the old restaurant space was modified with glass pastry cases, shelves for displaying jarred goods and wines, and sidewalk-facing windows set with wanton baked goods sure to lure in passersby.
The menu, presented on a brick wall inside, is made up of items so visually arresting and indulgent they seem reserved for special occasions, but the warmth of the place supplies all the justification we need to make like the French and eat brioche feuilletée any old day of the week. And trust, that signature many-layered, frangipane-laced treat won't survive much longer than it takes to vogue for its Instagram close-up. Hazelnut brioche, financiers, pear tarts, and Parisian flan also await to be packed neatly into takeaway boxes and teamed with to-go coffees, canned spritz cocktails, or expertly selected California and French wines.
Looking to sink your teeth into something more savory? There are four varieties of pâté en croûte, terrines by the pound, and lobster and beef cheek aspics that, we promise, you will find nowhere else in the Bay Area. This is straight out of Paris stuff.
But if you're sheltering outside of San Francisco (or Paris, for that matter), you may still tickle your palate with Chef Delaroque's exquisite pastries thanks to nationwide shipping options. You may also expedite packages of pâté en croûte and those beautiful brioche loaves to anyone looking for a sweet (or savory) start to the new year.
PS: Also look out for Maison Nico's kiosk at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays.
(Photography by Sarah Chorey)
Another well-crafted pastry, the Tarte aux Poires layers thinly sliced and lightly torched pears on buttery pastry crust with a side of cream.
// Maison Nico is open for takeout 9am to 4pm Wednesday through Sunday; 710 Montgomery St. (Jackson Square), maisonnico.com.