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    The Dish: DaLat's Gateaux and Cafe
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    I had every intention of going to church one recent Sunday morning. My hour of measured repentance was well overdue. Instead, at 10 a.m. I am staring lovingly at a slice of “tuxedo” cake — chocolate and vanilla layers dampened by rum and butter syrup — and convincing myself that such a treat is fit for morning snacking. I’ll blame my spiritual abandonment’s landslide into gluttony on being 30 weeks pregnant. That’s cute, forgivable. Not totally honest, though. DaLat’s Gateaux and Cafe in south Louisville tempts me always, with or without occupied womb.

    I counter the sweet with a savory pâté chuad bun. This golden pastry flakes like a croissant on the surface but softens in the doughy subterranean until fork punctures warm pork. Opened six years ago, DaLat's specializes in “French, Vietnamese, American — everything,” says manager Bill Ho, whose parents started baking in their native Vietnam 30 years ago. (The bakery’s named for Da Lat, Vietnam, where the family originated.) A black-and-white photo from their old bakery in Vietnam greets customers. 

    It’s an unassuming space, tucked at the rear of a generous parking lot and small strip of businesses. Inside, the walls are dark-chocolate and blush. A relative’s bright paintings decorate a far wall above the cafe’s three tables. Near the register, glass cases house fresh-baked cookies, cakes, rolls and bánh mì sandwiches. A Christmas tree festooned in crimson bows and gold tinsel stands in a corner. On this September morning, customers filter in to pick up orders. Few leave without a Vietnamese iced coffee in hand, a nectar of caffeine and condensed milk that swallows smooth and rich.

    Bakeries are rarely bad, I suppose. Flour, eggs, sugar and butter are powerful tools even in amateur hands. And DaLat’s excels at the basics. I once snuck late-night spoonfuls of buttercream frosting off a leftover cake I’d ordered for a party. Culture and tradition only enhance the bakers’ craft. DaLat’s is likely the only bakery in Louisville that offers a cake made with durian, a fruit popular in Southeast Asia that some say smells like sweaty socks soaked in onions.

    I slide onto a bench with my two pastries, both served on Styrofoam rectangles. (Don’t expect pretense here.) An elderly man who had fallen asleep sitting up, head tilted back, one hand clutching a magazine, awakens. He witnesses my orderly devouring — first the pork bun, then the tuxedo cake. He smiles and nods as I gingerly clean stray crumbs with a napkin, minor wreckage from a slightly sinful Sunday morning.

     

    This article is courtesy of the October issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here.

    Photos by Casey Chalmers 

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