A Sanctuary for Ghyslain

“An artist can express himself in many ways. Ghyslain Maurais uses chocolate.”

The pamphlet describing Ghyslain Chocolat des Beaux Arts sums up perfectly the dining experience one can expect.

Brought on last June, a friend introduced him to Nancy Noel, of The Sanctuary: the Art of N.A. Noel, he specializes in pastries, breads, and chocolates. Born in Quebec, Ghyslain is a French trained chef (at the Institute du Tourisme et d’Hotelerie du Quebec). His resume included working for some of the finest hotels and restaurants in North America and maintaining the position of executive chef for the Quebec Delegation in New York and London. However, he developed a new passion, one which included a chocolate boutique in Zionsville, Indiana. He also owns a chocolate factory in Union City, Indiana and a restaurant in Richmond, Indiana.

So my wife and I, enjoying a Zionsville day trip, decided to go to lunch there. Since the bistro is located within The Sanctuary, you are surrounded by the gorgeous art of N.A. Noel which nicely sets the mood. Keeping with the renovated church meets artisan bistro feel of the place, we were seated in pews and wrought iron chairs. The meals brought out were so pretty, you wanted to take a moment just to appreciate their sheer presentation.

My wife hoarded her Toasted Pecan Chicken Salad (freshly baked homemade croissant or brioche bread filled with their signature toasted pecan chicken salad) with a side of chili. Judging from her stabbing of my hand with her fork whenever I made a move to sample it, I’m guessing it was good. I went with the New Orleans Mufelata (a Viennoise brioche layered with Genoa salami, smoked ham, provolone, and mozzarella cheeses with an olive spread) and creamy vegetable soup. Despite it probably being bad form to lick the plate, I’d risk offending the chef by saying “don’t just decorate my plate with that sauce. Slap it on my sandwich like it’s ketchup.” Though a simple sounding meal, the way the sandwich was constructed layered tastes and textures in wonderful combinations. I, for example, actually hate cucumbers, but found myself eating them because of what they added to the dining experience.

The desserts themselves are a work of Zionsville art. One can choose among any of a number of hand-dipped and hand-painted chocolates. Let me repeat that: Hand-dipped and hand-painted chocolates. Each one is an exquisite creation. Each table has a pastry and chocolates guide, a complete dessert break down layer by layer like a professional athlete’s play book. To quote from it: “Using brilliant colors and featuring unique designs, these individual masterpieces look as incredible as they taste.” It’s one thing to look pretty, but it stops short if it doesn’t deliver on taste. Ghyslain delivers both.