Vancouver pastry chef Andrew Han might be best known as "the Kouign," but he is definitely known most of all for his baked goods using the iconic White Rabbit candy.
Now Han has just soft-launched his highly-anticipated own bakeshop, Kouign Cafe, at 18 East Pender in Chinatown.
Pronounced "kween" and named for the decadent buttery layered pastry called Kouign Amann, the cafe has been under construction officially since early June, with Han giving regular video updates on Instagram.
Chinatown, Han explains, holds a special place in the Vancouver native's heart.
"It’s where I was born and ultimately where I learned how to use the ingredients and play with the flavours of my heritage from my mom," wrote Han on Instagram recently. "I spent these early stages of life learning what family means, community, friendship, connection within a small confined area of Vancouver. As a tiny little kid, I honestly thought the entire universe was just like Chinatown."
"Chinatown is home to me," adds Han. "And after all these years I’m coming back to share my mother’s love and flavours with you, with an extra dash of magic. I hope you love it."
Last year, the Northwest Culinary Academy-trained Han did pop-up events showcasing some of his goodies, including his signature White Rabbit Candy cookie - his tagline is, of course, "Follow the White Rabbit," which doubles as a hashtag on social media.
Over the weekend, Kouign Cafe opened its doors to the public for the first time, and will be operating for the next little while in this "soft opening" phase, with a partial menu, as additional items continue to be perfected before being rolled out.
In addition to Han's beloved White Rabbit Cookie, Kouign Cafe offers other Asian-inspired treats like the "Lunch Box" cookie, which is a spicy peanut butter cookie with Chinese sausage, nori, sesame, and pork floss. The "Gold Lantern" is a brioche bun with coconut filling, cream cheese, and Speculoos icing, and "The Cosmos" is a brown butter and black sesame banana bread with dark chocolate chips and cinnamon streusel.
And, yes, there's a Kouign Amann, with a Han twist - his is done with a coconut butter mochi heart, caramelized sugar crust, chrysanthemum honey drizzle, and toasted black sesame on top.
Look for these tempting treats and more so far - but if you don't get there early, be aware they're likely to sell out.
Right now, Kouign Cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to around 4 p.m. Follow @kouigncafeyvr for updates.