Osaka has a reputation for being the culinary mecca of Japan and deservedly so, as it houses numerous great restaurants and bakeries. I have particular weakness for the latter and try to find new patisseries everywhere I go. Last time, J and I had a great breakfast at West Wood Bakers, and on this visit I decided to check out Le Sucre Coeur, arguably the best bakery in the city. I first heard about this pastry shop during our dinner at L’Effervescence in Tokyo, where we sampled their delicious bread and was told their bakery was well worth a visit. When I arrived 15 minutes before the opening time on Saturday morning and saw 12 people already lined up at the entrance, and 15 more join in behind me, I knew I should have been at the right place and thankfully at the right time.
The bakery is owned by Ayumu Iwanaga who allegedly studied under Eric Kayser (Maison Kayser) in Paris before moving back to Japan to helm his own bakery. Currently, Le Sucre Coeur collaborates with restaurants like three Michelin-starred French restaurant Hajime and famous two Michelin-starred innovative kaiseki restaurant Fujiya 1935.
There was an amazing array of freshly baked goods and the anticipation was building up as we all observed the personnel inside bring out the fresh-from-the-oven baguette, croissants, pain au chocolat, etc onto the display.
At 11:00 a.m. the doors opened and we were welcomed inside. The ambiance felt so welcoming and comfortable enhanced by interior design details like wood and exposed brick walls. Lots of natural light fills the space, warming you up as you desperately try to decide what to order. Besides more traditional French baked pastries, you can order sandwiches and toasts. The restaurant also offers fresh produce, jams and condiments on sale. I also spotted the brochures about recently published documentary Ants on a Shrimp, which depicts inspirational journey of the legendary René Redzepi (chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen, which was named world’ best restaurant back in 2012 and 2014) and his team to Japan and story of their pop-up restaurant in Tokyo. Apparently, Le Sucre Coeur collaborated with Noma team and supplied them with bread. I couldn’t resist getting pain au raisins to-go for later, and decided to sample a mystery dish cooked in a skillet. Mystery because the label was in Japanese and I had no idea what I was ordering. It didn’t take too long to find out as I was surprised with a flavorful and creamy chicken and chickpeas curry. It was served on slices of a freshly house-baked rye and whole-wheat bread and topped with oh-so-good pickles. I wish I had more of the latter, I have a certain weakness for pickles. The curry had just the right amount of spicy kick and lime and cilantro added great twist and gave a nice balance of tartness to the dish. I inhaled the whole thing within minutes. Craving for something sweet and seriously tempted by the insane choice of petite gateaux, I ordered a cup of coffee and two cakes to sample.
My choux had a firm crust filled with the heavenly custard and I liked the caramelized almonds on top which added a crunchy nice texture to it.
I also tried a chocolate soufflé cake which looked beautiful, but didn’t impress. Hidemi Sugino’s sublime cakes firmly hold #1 place in that department for me.
My only complaint would be about the drip coffee au lait I had. It was so bitter (even after adding extra cream and sugar) that I couldn’t have more than three sips. Later in the day I also devoured my pain au raisins (strangely, something that is not very easy to come by in Tokyo) which turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever head. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Le Sucre Coeur whilst visiting Osaka next time.
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