Japan Mar 2011 Day 3 – Pâtisserie Henri Charpentier
Pâtisserie Henri Charpentier (PHC) is easily the most “accessible” french bakery in Japan, with many takeaway outlets in depachikas of the major departmental stores like Isetan, Daimaru and Takashimaya, all over Japan. In fact, I don’t recall not seeing them at any of the departmental stores we went to! If one is forced to draw comparisons, PHC is like BreadTalk in Singapore, only that the former is much much much much much much…better, especially for a pastry junkie like me!
Like the others, we took away our wares as these were from the depachika in Takashimaya located in Kawaramachi-Shijo, downtown Kyoto, a small but decent selection of mignardises comprising of financiers and macarons, as well as a petit gateau.
financier au thé vert matcha aka matcha financier. really fragrant, using premium matcha from Uji Kyoto, not too far from where we were. The use of matcha is really generous to the extent of one being able to taste a slight tinge of bitterness from the green tea used, which provided really good balance against the sweetness. I aspire my matcha financiers to be like theirs!
Macarons trio - fruit de la passion et chocolat au lait (passionfruit and milk chocolate – yellow with cocoa speckles), rhubarbe et fraise (rhubarb and strawberry – green and pink) and cerise (cherry- red).
The name tags were all in Japanese but thankfully we’d gotten the flavours sorted out through a conversation using a smattering of Japanese and English with the store manager. He was a very helpful man, like most of the Japanese we’d encountered, tried very hard to translate the names of their wares and the ingredients used to English for me. But it seemed that he knew more French than English! The funniest part was when he tried to describe the rhubarb and strawberry macaron and used “fraise” for strawberries and I replied “ichigo?” when he let out a huge sigh of relief with a highly enthusiastic “Yes-si, Yes-si!!!” Totally hilarious!
A comparison of size with those we got from Patisserie Alcyon, the ones from PHC were a tad smaller but in no way inferior!
Macaron Fruit a la Passion et Chocolat au lait- a remake of Pierre Herme’s famous Macaron Mogador. I’d not tried PH’s famous macaron but PHC’s was rendition was really good, wonderfully aromatic and delightfully tart from the passionfruit infused in the milk chocolate ganache. This combination works really well.
Slicing up the financiers – intense emerald green from the matcha flavoured ones against those in creamy yellow from the “plain” ones à la traditionale.
“Plain” in quotation marks as its hardly apt a word that should’ve been used on these bars of gold as they are hardly uninteresting, heady perfumes in all that buttery awesomeness from the beurre noisette! Échiré? I would not be surprised…
Interestingly, the cherry flavoured macaron, despite its ablazing rouge appearance, was the least impressionable. All the shells were beautifully crafted via macarons au sucre cuit (Italian meringue) method. Very consistent results indeed. Perhaps its time for me to convert!
銀のモンブランMont Blanc d’ Argent at almost 500 yen a pop, a gâteau roulé à la crème de marrons, i.e. roll cake with chestnut cream filling as a base topped with chestnut purée and finally crowned with a roasted Japanese chestnut. This was photographed just for the “records” as we didnt taste it during the shoot as we had a pastry too many for the day, not to mention a very gratifying dinner before that! One couldnt find a more appropriate moment to have it, the very next morning, for breakfast. But that would bring us to the next post.
If you have only a few hours to spare while in transit in some part of Japan and is dying to try some quality pastries, I would definitely suggest Pâtisserie Henri Charpentier. Despite being probably factory produced en masse, the quality of their work is not compromised. That basically explains why their counters are always swarmed with customers in all the depachikas we’d visited. Not your regular Aoki boutiques where one should anticipate petite gateaux par excellence together with winding queues and long waits before opening hours, or a complex-looking and often mind-boggling Sugino menu where one literally needs to tear one’s mind (and stomach!) apart to decide which cakes to have in store and which to takeaway while working within the constraints of the number limit of items per customer! Have I confused you already?
Patissiers and patisseries, to me, should be of quality, but yet approachable. And I think PHC seems to have somewhat balanced that somehow.