Japan Mar 2011 Day 2 – Pâtisserie Mont Plus @ Daimaru Umeda
Before our trip to Keikanshin Japan, we did some reading up on the patisseries in the region which are accessible to us. The list was quite overwhelming frankly. But given the time constraint, we had to trim it down to a small compilation, mostly those with takeaway outlets within the depachika of major shopping malls like Daimaru, Takashimaya and Sogo. Jean Philippe Darcis, Michel Belin, Wittamer etc were just some of the international names that had landed in Japan over the last few years. But personally, I’m more keen on sampling creations by the Japanese patissiers.
From a recipe book “Monter au Plus haut du ciel” published by MOOK, I learned about Hayashi Syuhei 林 周平 a patissier from Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku and now currently based in Kobe with his own Patisserie, Mont Plus. The book title, literally meaning “To Reach for the Skies” was very intriguing and so were the creations within. Kobe wasn’t on our itinerary but thankfully, Hayashi san opened an outlet, mont plus PAYSANNE in JR Osaka Station in Umeda. I knew I had to pay a visit to sample his works.
A selection of entremet slices from mont plus PAYSANNE, prices ranging between 400 – 500 Yen. Framboisee, Bucheron, Bouchon, Bresilien, from left to right.
Not that easy to take pictures through the glass panel, trying to avoid reflections and glares. I think we recived more glares from the onlooking Japanese customers wondering what these two people were doing trying to take photos while squatting down or kneeling in awkward positions.
After much deliberation, we went back to the hotel with a slice of entremet and 2 macarons. Yes we had to limit ourselves to two, owing to our other purchases that day.
The Japanese are so meticulous with the packaging. separating the macarons and entremet with a cooling pack cushioned with a ring of cardboard. The weather is biting cold outside mind you, single digit degree celsius along the streets. I was asked if I was going to eat the desserts soon after and when I replied upon returning to our hotel, they promptly set off to pack the confections. A sticker outside bared the “best tasting expiry” for the entremet while the macarons were individually encased their own plastic bags with the expiry dates pasted on back of the wrappers. I know it sounds much of a cliche by now, but this is really impeccable down to the dribbles of details.
Framboise (raspberry) and Pistache (pistachio) macarons and a simple but elegantly layered “Saint Marc”.
Some quick photos using some makeshift kitchenware we bought from a 100 Yen shop near our hotel, a black acrylic serving tray and a couple of dessert forks, which we used throughout the whole trip’s dessert photo shoots.
First up was Saint Marc. I’d first saw pictures and read about it in Hayashi san’s book, so you can imagine the excitement building up in me for being able to see it in person and sampling it! Why Saint Marc, some of you might ask, at the expense of some of the more showy pieces. Well, the reason is simple – this is something manageable for me and I’ll want to taste it before I make it.
Slates of of Vanilla crème Chantilly and crème chocolat sandwiched between layers of biscuit joconde, the layering of this cake is so well-defined and contrasting. The joconde sponge is first generously applied with a rich custard sauce and sprinkled heavy with layers of caster sugar and icing sugar before being thoroughly caramelised with a Caraméliser to the point of barely charring the sugar. The flavours were as intense as it looked, interspersed with hints of bitterness from the burnted sugar and nectary sweetness from whipped cream, rich yet smooth textures of the chocolate mousse contrasted the crisp crackling of the caramelised shards of crystalline sugar and creamy yet light chantilly cream with the density of joconde. Honestly, the first bite came as a rude shock, owning to the acerbity of the burnt sugar. I’d had many a creme brulees or caramelised meringues before but never had it been taken so far to one extreme. But the other flavours and textures followed suit, sweet, creamy, rich, moist, crisp etc… This is systematic chaos, as each intended character was slowly being teased out one after another, some seeming to compliment while others aiming to contradict, like a prima donna leading the full singing cast appearing from behind the curtains after an operatic climax to receive waves of applause and admiration from their appreciative audience.
In short, I was spellbound…
We picked two macarons out of the flavours, again for good contrast. My initial plans were to try a staple flavour for all the patisseries which offer macarons, and chocolate was the flavour bestowed with this task. But we found this strategy flawed after some rethinking. Given the constraints, we only allowed ourselves to sample what the shop feels is their strength(s), basically asking the shop for recommendations on their best-selling or most popular/welcomed flavour. If we had limited ourselves to chocolate, we would invariably miss out some hidden treasures I’m sure. Its all about “having a cake and eating it”, quite literally.
Pistache and Framboise macarons were though offered to us and I’m glad they were. Raspberries had been one of the ingredients which I found so endearing and used extensively in my bakes. Hints of sweet subtleness amidst the mostly tart reality has become almost like a personalised philosophy for me and raspberry is a fruit which carries this so well. The buttercream is soft and lush (as expected) with raspberry compote embedded within breaking the monotony of the sweet coques. Interestingly, the seeds were not removed through sifting. They certainly get in the way of the creamy textures and sometimes stuck between the ivories, but gives the macaron on the whole, a very “earthy” sensation. I know the word sounded weird, but I wonder what’s Hayashi san’s motives for leaving the seeds within.
Perhaps we should have tried the pistache macaron first as it probably carries the most delicate taste. Unfortunately, the wrong cannot be undone. Saint Marc edged too vivid an image on my tastebuds and so did the Macaron Framboise, somewhat. Macaron Pistache was aromatic to say the very least, but that seemed to be the only faint impression I’d had of the green confectionery.
mont plus PAYSANNE @ Daimaru, JR Osaka Station, Umeda