50 SHADES OF TOKYO DESSERTS | SHADE 1
First and foremost, I am super excited to launch my new blog series – 50 Shades of Tokyo Desserts. The challenge is simple: 50 desserts over 12 months and 1 food & travel blogger in pursuit of her next best sweet treat around Tokyo.
I am a firm believer that when it comes to cross-cultural experiences, one of the best ways to fully immerse into foreign cultures and customs is to discover varied and vibrant flavors of our travel destinations. In regards to outstanding Japanese cuisine the world has heard way too much about the freshest sushi, scrumptious wagyu steak and soul warming bowl of tonkatsu ramen. However, as I continue to explore local food scene I want to feature the sweeter side of Tokyo, something that I find to be unfairly underrepresented. I believe that desserts are one of the best ways to bring cultures together. Who doesn’t enjoy sampling sweet treats from around the world? With an itinerary that includes the crème de la crème of luxurious patisseries and refined historic confectioneries I plan to taste and tell you the story of Tokyo’s most sublime and iconic desserts. So, make sure to subscribe to my blog and follow 50 Shades of Tokyo Desserts on Facebook to stay abreast of my enticing and sugar high adventures of 2016!
For my first afternoon tea mission I headed to the upscale department store Tokyo Midtown, adjacent to The Ritz-Carlton in the Roppongi district. Even though Tokyo Midtown houses quite a few interesting places for foodies and dessert lovers, I had my mind set on one place only – Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris, a pastry shop founded in Paris by a Japanese pâtissier of the same name.
Having trained in the art of pastry making both in Japan and France, Sadaharu Aoki was inspired to combine the two sensibilities. Now a well-established and highly acclaimed Japanese pastry whiz, he made his name using an unconventional approach: by infusing Japanese flavors into traditional French classics like millefeuille, éclairs and macarons, Aoki created a perfect marriage of tastes and cultures.
Macarons are one of his many specialties which he creates using flavors such as yuzu (citrus), momo (peach), genmaicha (brown rice tea), wasabi and kurogome (black sesame). The patisserie in Tokyo Midtown has minimalistic yet stylish design. White dominates the space which draws even more attention to his colorful creations their design resembling edible pieces of art. Those who want to take a break from their shopping spree can enjoy desserts and a drink within the comforts of the cozy seating area at the dessert salon. The beautiful cakes, chocolates, éclairs and macarons are lined up in neat rows under display cases like edible jewels. Along with his Japanese-influenced desserts Aoki offers an array of unadulterated French classics like his chou à la crème (cream puff) and enticing salted caramel éclairs. On the opposite side you find the chocolate croissants, buttery and flaky and brown… with the chocolate mixed right into the pastry dough. A rainbow palette of chocolate bars – Bonbon Maquillage or make-up candy – the colors of the matcha green tea, yuzu citrus fruit and wasabi hint at the taste to come. Don’t miss an array of aromatic teas and certainly don’t forget Chocoron – a macaron split in half, with stripes of cake-y biscuit, ganache, and chocolate. Mind the chic polka-dots on top of the brightly colored chocolate coating! It’s worth noting that the macarons and other petit gateaux pour sec are all flown in from France, while the entremets and petit gateaux are made on site.
It’s certainly hard to make a choice with so many tempting treats. However, I was pleasantly surprised that along with single desserts, Sadaharu Aoki offers a degustation cake sampler if you dine in – a perfect way to savor a little bit of everything. It’s a worthy splurge I could not pass up. Luckily, there was a table available so I nestled in a corner in anticipation of my sugar feast. It was quite chilly outside so I immediately opted for cinnamon Chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) to go with my desserts. Delightfully smooth with just the right amount of thickness AND sweetness it was a great prelude to my upcoming dessert feast. Soon enough a platter lined up with exquisite sweet bites arrived. Right away you can see that the Japanese eye for detail prevails in the presentation, a pleasant sight to behold. I am particularly awed by the visual composition of the cakes, each layer is laid out with geometrical accuracy maintaining precise clean lines. The sampler included all pastries currently on sale as well as a few macarons with signature flavors. Let’s have a closer look.
Sensuel: This 6-tier entremet consists of alternating layers of nutty daqcuoise, almond-flavored chocolate sponge, feuilletine praline, milk chocolate mousse and thin yet prevailing raspberry gelée. This was one of my favorites among all the samples I tasted. Flavors of chocolate and raspberry created a delectable combination. What really elevated this marriage further for me is the dominant hazelnut flavor. The piece is crowned with incredibly flavorful Macaron Framboise. I was delighted with the crisp shell and tangy raspberry confiture filling. Cheesecake Citronne topped with Florentine cookie: When I first looked at it, I thought it would be just another boring cheesecake. I couldn’t have been more mistaken! This light and airy cheesecake surprised me with a punch of citrus flavor from crème de citron which blended so well with the delicate crème de fromage. The taste was further enriched by the prevailing hazelnut flavor from the shortbread base. It was truly a delicious enigma. It was rich, but not heavy. Sweet, yet tart and refreshing. The buttery cookie on top was rich in caramel and almond flakes. Flavorful, yet a bit dry to my liking. Even though, I’m not fond of cookies in the first place, this one makes me rethink my positon.
Valencia: This gorgeous cake celebrates the mélange of citrusy orange with exuberance of chocolate. The composition of layers is almost similar to that of Sensuel with an exception of delicate orange crème. Dacquoise base provides a nice crunch to the overall smooth texture of the cake, while the presence of hazelnuts are enhanced by the two halves of roasted nuts as décor perched on top. Saya: This visually striking pink perfection combines strawberry mousse with pistachio crème. While the concept sounds appetizing I am afraid I only got a whisper of pistachio… like it whispered in my ear and when I turned around it was nowhere to be found. Oh that treacherous prevailing strawberry flavor (which I love no matter what!). Chocolate Praline topped with Macaron Chocolat: A little chocolate wonderland, with smooth and tender texture and added hazelnut flavor. The macaron was a beautiful marriage of chocolate and hazelnut. A simple combination executed to perfection.
Bamboo: With Christmas right around the corner the design of the cake beautifully incorporated the festive theme of the season. This cake is also Aoki’s famed matcha rendition of the classic opéra. It is beautifully layered with matcha joconde biscuit, chocolate ganache, and matcha buttercream. And I adored the artful bamboo motif! As expected, the aroma of matcha really cuts through giving it a bitter taste. I’m afraid I am not a lover of matcha so this cake was my least favorite. Macaron Citron: As soon as I bit into this incredibly aromatic bright yellow semi-circle my taste buds exploded from refreshing citrusy flavor of yuzu. Tart and tangy, it almost tasted like a palate cleanser at the end of my dessert feast.
All of Aoki’s creations boast with simple yet sophisticated flavors and are perfectly executed. Aoki applies the Japanese sense of intricacy and perfectionist attitude to the rich history of French pastry-making, producing strikingly beautiful works of art using premium ingredients. He is a true virtuoso producing desserts that are as delicious as they are exquisitely beautiful.
“Creating something delicious. To achieve this goal, it is essential to maintain simplicity. I like to create simple things, but it is the most difficult thing to do, since simple things cannot be manipulated.” – Sadaharu Aoki
On my way out I made sure I got couple of treats for Mr. B as well. Plus, I couldn’t leave without buying one of my favorite and Aoki’s highly praised desserts – éclair. I chose Éclair au Praline: delicate pastry was filled with rich heavenly crème. The combination of caramel and hazelnuts was simply fantastic; I will certainly be back for more.
Domo arigato gozaimasu Aoki-san for setting the bar high for my future sweet adventures.
Boutique in Tokyo Midtown Shop
- 9-7-4 Akasaka Minato-ku Tokyo Midtown B1F
- 3 minutes walking from Roppongi’s station (Tokyo Subway/ Oedo line)
- Open : Monday to Sunday 11:00 – 21:00
Shinjuku Isetan Shop
- 3-14-1 Shinjuku shinjuku-ku Tokyo
- 3 minutes walk from Shinjukusanchôme station (Tokyo Subway)
- Open : Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 20:00
- 3-4-1 Shinkokusai BLD RDC Marunouchi,chiyoda-ku Tokyo
- 3 minutes walk from Yurakuchô station(JR lines/Tokyo Subway)
- Open : Monday to Sunday 11:00 – 20:00
Shibuya Hikarie ShinQs shop
- Shibuya Hikarie ShinQs B2F
- 2-21-1 Shibuya Shibuya-ku Tokyo
- Open : Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 21:00