One can argue that fine desserts are normally reserved for fine-dining establishments. It’s difficult to find creative and expertly crafted pastry dishes outside of high-end restaurants, where regular visits can leave a serious dent in wallets. Gastown’s Mosquito, one of the city’s only dessert-forward bars, shuttered its doors in the trendy neighbourhood last year, which left a void in our city full of sweet tooths.
Luckily, when one door closes, another (literally) opens.
Billy Button Dessert Bar (144 East Broadway) made its debut last winter, offering a menu that focuses solely on sweet plates—and we’re not talking about artisanal ice cream or housemade pies that come in six flavours.
This unassuming 800-square-foot spot is the brainchild of Cody Chen, who chose to name her establishment after a resilient flower from the daisy family.
“After this flower dries out, they keep their strength. I like the spirit of it, and the name is cute,” Chen told the Georgia Straight in an interview at the eatery. “I want my products to be the same, to be able to stay strong and consistent.”
The establishment’s popularity stems from its list of desserts, which can be likened to art on a plate. For instance, the Garden isn’t your typical postdinner treat: it features a rectangular bar placed dead centre on the dish, made up of ingredients like thinly sliced cucumbers, yogurt mousse, and yuzu crèmeux, decorated with raspberry powder and crostini.
The Osmanthus Udon is another unique creation that isn’t what it seems. At first glance, it actually looks like savoury Japanese noodles, but it is really made from panna cotta, topped with crumble and berry sauce. Guests don’t need to request chopsticks to indulge in this dish.
“My desserts come with a concept. It’s not just a pretty dish with one part,” Chen explained.
The two most popular items at this Vancouver joint that have been dominating social-media feeds are off-menu picks. The Mushroom looks like it’s been plucked from an enchanted forest and is made with a bright-red cream-puff cap, panna cotta stem, and milk-chocolate Chantilly.
The bestseller, the Orange, is a real-looking fruit that would throw off even the most experienced grocery-store stockers and fruit farmers. This dessert is made with a white-chocolate ganache shell with a coating of orange cocoa butter, put into a mould and refrigerated to make it resemble a real orange. On the inside, guests will taste the bold and familiar flavours of the orange-confit marmalade—it would be wise to order your own instead of sharing.
Chen has met with plenty of positive responses since Billy Button opened, building up a steady clientele. But that doesn’t mean the co-owner isn’t overwhelmed by the large number of Instagrammers and food bloggers who are constantly contacting her to request free tastings, and the customers who come just to take photos of dessert.
“For me, I don’t want anybody to know about us,” Chen said. “I want to keep quality customers who actually care about what I’m doing. I’d rather have it quiet and slow than filled with people who just order the desserts for an Instagram photo.”
Don’t be surprised if this dessert bar bans the use of cellphones in the future. For now, snap as many photos as you can, because the treats are truly photogenic and taste as good as they look.