Our recent trips to Hong Kong have been more exciting than ever! The local pastry scene has picked up considerably over the last couple of years and it has never been short of new joints to try or places which we’d enjoyed to revisit. Passion by Gerard Dubois is one of the latest addition to the growing number of new places to go for fine pastry in Hong Kong. Being a patisserie, boulangerie and confiserie all at once, it opened in 2012 in Wanchai, the heart of the CBD district in Hong Kong. So for our latest trip in 2013, it only seemed right to pay them a visit.
Wondering down the streets of Central, Hong Kong after our morning walk in the Mid-levels/Soho area, we were feeling a little hungry and could sit down somewhere for a pitstop. In between meals, we didn’t want something too heavy so high tea seemed like the perfect choice. There are many 5-star hotels dotted along the coastal stretch overlooking Victoria Harbour from Sheung Wan all the way to Causeway Bay. Since we just came out of H&M along Queen’s Road Central, it seem to make sense to head in the direction of Pedder Street to a place which I have on my “to-eat/do” list. We didn’t make reservations as high tea here isn’t part of the travel itinerary but we are here nonetheless to try our luck. Thankfully, it was a lazy weekday afternoon and there were empty tables available, though not very many. High Tea @ Le Salon De Thé de Joël Robuchon it seems destined to be…
Yes, finally we begin the reviews on our visits to Pâtisserie Hidemi Sugino. If you are familiar with French pastry, Hidemi Sugino is a name that hardly needs introduction. And I would dare say that you do not know French pastry until you know Hidemi Sugino. Trained and apprenticed at Patisserie Peltier (now defunct) in France and most noted for winning the prestigious Coupe de Monde de la Pâtisserie back in 1991, he quickly became the spotlight upon returning to Japan, first opening an atelier and patisserie in Kobe before starting his own dessert boutique in Tokyo. Since then Hidemi Sugino created a wave of sensation within the Japanese gastronomic scene, attaining popularity like few had before him, with a strong and loyal following of fans and dessert aficionados both locally and abroad. (more…)
Ladurée, an old guard in the long-withstanding tradition of French pastry-making is a name that hardly needs introduction. It is due to open its first outlet in Singapore in a week’s time. We’d visited Ladurée’s flagship store in Japan just last week. Hopefully this would be a “sneak preview” of we could expect when it hits town soon.
Truth be told, the visit to Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie was quite incidental. I was at Plaza Singapura to pass some knitting books to Eelin which I’d gotten for her at the recent Big Bad Wolf Book Sale 2012 when it started to rain. The original plan was to visit Robinsons’ annual sale but the downpour dampened the shopping spirit quite literally. Plaza Singapura’s new shopping annexe houses quite a number of F&B joints, some familiar faces and some new kids on the block. Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie‘s latest joint is located on the first level, in a rather strategic location, being very near the MRT exit as well as the latest bus stop and just next to the escalators. So rather conveniently, I packed three petit gateaus from their current sweet menu back home.
Interestingly, I noticed quite a number of pieces in the chiller display which are fruit themed. It seemed like Canelé is in for a rather fruity festive season. And I personally love to include fruits in my own bakes as well!
A fashion model who struts confidently on the runway and a pastry chef who works furiously a pot for choux pastry over the stove are hardly two scenes one can easily put together. One bathes under the explosion of blinding camera flashes while the other bears with pearls of sweat beading down one’s forehead and neck by a hot kitchen oven. Spotlight glamour and kitchen sink grime just ain’t things one can piece together readily. One can hardly image how these two seemingly distraught and disjointed characters could be living as one in a single person! Schizophrenia? Haha thankfully it is not. Amanda Strang is one such example, and might I add, a rather successful one! The Tahiti-born fashion supermodel turned celebrity currently based in Hong Kong, blessed with ravishing beauty owing much to her exotic French and Taiwanese parentage, Amanda Strang had a highly sucessful and illustrious career under media limelight, suddenly discarded her catwalking stilettos and traded them for kitchen clogs to enrol herself into the Parisian campus of the famous French culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu for training to become a professionally accredited pastry chef. Becoming a successful patissiere she most certainly did, and a couple of years down the road, after a string of stints at high profile establishments like Laduree, Jacques Genin and the three michelin star restaurant, Caprice, Amanda Strang felt that she was finally ready to take on the world and opened her first pastry shop, Petite Amanda at the IFC, Central Hong Kong last year. We knew that we have to pay this joint a visit during our trip to Hong Kong this May!
Back to Osaka after a couple of days out in Kyoto and Nara, we’re down to our second last day in Kansai. The original plan was to explore Umeda in northern Osaka but we’d decided against that after passing through the area on the train to Kyoto. Towering skyscrapers and looming office buildings seem to characterise this part of town. Well, it is afterall a commercial hub in Osaka, that reminded us of the western end of Shinjuku. A quick change of plans brought us to Kobe, another coastal city barely an hour from Osaka by train. Kobe, well known for its beef and the great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. Kobe was highly recommended by Chef Lynn Chen, the macaron instructor at Palate Sensations who supposed that the quality of some patisseries and confectioneries in Kobe are on par, if not better than those in Tokyo! Since we were already in Kansai, it seemed wrong not to pop by Kobe for a visit!
Hong Kong is one of our favorite holidaying destinations, having visited the place close to a dozen times over the last decade or so. Good food, fantastic shopping are just some of the reasons that draw us continually to go back over and over again, sometimes to try out new dimsum joints, or otherwise to revisit eateries and restaurants we’d been before to get our fix of good tong shuei or wanton mee. 买东西，吃东西，买东西， 吃东西… just like the advertisement by the HK Tourism Board a couple of years back. Strangely enough, our itineraries over the last few trips have never really about hunting for pastries, partially because the days are often spent going about our usual routine “shopping circuit” from one factory outlet to other, and of course, there’s so much good authentic local food around its a shame not to do our rounds while we were there. Be it bargains hunting or cha can teng (local teahouses) hopping, there’s usually hardly enough time for anything else.
The most recent trip, just 2 weeks back, was different, we’d decided to make amendments to our usual food itinerary and shopping guide to make time to visit some patisseries and bakeries, as well as shops that specialise in baking supplies. Thankfully, many of these were “along the way” to our usual eating places and shopping spots, so not much of a detour required! Before our trip, we did some “homework” by checking up on some of the dessert places to visit. Fieldtrip reviews by fellow blogging foodies as well as online eating guides and forums like openrice provided a vast amount of information. But we have only 4 days in Hong Kong, so being concise is really the key. After some painful but necessary trimming down, we are down to a handful of pastry joints which are more easily accessible by means of time management and public transport. So here we go!
Paul Lafayet (PL), one of the patisseries in Hong Kong which I’d been wanting to visit for sometime now. After adopting a more serious stance towards the art of pastry making, PL is a name that frequently pops up whenever I google for pastry related stuff in Hong Kong. So it would make perfect sense to visit them this time round.
pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris ‘s dessert boutiques in Taipei were THE places which we were looking forward the most to visit on our trip to Taipei last year. Having read so much about him and his works, we were in dire need to sample some of his creations. It is our closest call we could ever get to pastry heaven. Pierre Herme is still another 3 hours away in Tokyo but going to Aoki is by no means settling for second best! With his macarons highly raved amongst fellow dessert afficionadoes online, little deliberation is required when we were considering takeaways back to Singapore on our last day. So here on Macaron Day, we share them with you!
I’m “fast forwarding” my Japan posts to bring to you guys the Le Cordon Bleu Macarons from Kobe! “Nan desu de?!” some of you might ask. ‘Cos in barely 2 weeks’ time on 20th March is Le Jour de Macaron aka Macarons Day! This day which celebrates the popular French confectionery was initiated by no other than the man who revolutionised macaron gastronomie, Pierre Hermé. Since its inauguration 7 years ago, Macarons Day is celebrated by many patisseries around France, with notable names like Sadaharu Aoki, Dalloyau, Laurent Duchêne and Jean-Paul Hévin, just to name a few. It has since spread across the Altantic to NYC and Toronto, as well as the rest of the world! And over at Aspiring Bakers, we are having celebrating it for one whole month with “Aspiring Bakers #17 – March Macaron Madness!”
We visited Kobe as a day trip on our second last day in Kansai. It was an impromptu decision actually as we’d initially decided to stay put in Osaka after visiting Kyoto and Nara a couple of days back. But we kinda ran out of places to visit in Osaka, which is pretty much of a business and commercial hub, with much less character and history than its neighbouring cities and towns. So it was off to Kobe for more patisserie hunting!
Our first review on Pavé Chocolates and Confections was For Alice almost a year back. It was a sexy lil’ number which we couldn’t forget. Helluva creation it was, dramatic in both taste and looks. Since our first visit, we’d been back about half a dozen times, sometimes lazing the evening away over a slice of cake and a cuppa, sometimes ”wacarons” takeaways or simply popping by to say hi. I must say the initial visits were somewhat out of convenience, since we hang around Katong and Parkway Parade pretty much every weekend. It wasn’t long before we felt drawn to the place. Their creations suited us, i.e. bold ideas, use of premium ingredients, gutsy display for innovation in taste, texture and appearance. But most importantly, their constant strive for improvement and change, as well as being very customer-oriented,i.e. sincerity and willingness to seek out opinion and suggestions.
Feeling rather unsatisfied with dinner at another food joint somewhere in the vicinity (yes! we try to be nice and not to write about bad stuff…unless its really bad!), we were in dire need for some instant remediation and damage control! Service over dinner was horrid, and that most certainly “pavéd” the way (pun intended!) for our latest visit! And no takeaways today! We’d decided to sit in for our “treatment” to commence immediately!
In major Japanese cities like Kyoto, one usually doesn’t have to travel far to find patisseries with pastries and cakes of fairly decent quality. We’d managed to visit Pâtisserie Kanae and Pâtisserie Gion Sakai on this time round. But when we are on trips with packed itineraries and timetables to stick to, it is often not an easy thing to travel around tracking down small dessert shops or cafes which one has never been to, navigating tour maps of unfamiliar places in unfamiliar languages.
Three days of walking around Kyoto left us totally exhausted. While we love this beautiful city in all its grandeur and history, we loathed the idea of the need to walk long and far to get to the places we wanted. As such, despite having one or two more patisseries on our “to go and try” list, we had to abandon the idea as our legs were aching badly in protest! Kinkakuji, Kitano Tenmangu and later on Fushimi Inari Daisha most certainly took a toll on us. But that did not deter us for sampling more cakes and desserts on our last day here. No desserts?! That would be a cardinal sin yeah? LOL
When all fails, there’re always depachikas to fall back on. Walking down the aisles of the desserts and sweets section, we chanced upon a name which we found very familiar…
Serangoon Central was my “turf”, having lived in that neighbourhood for a good 14 years, spending the latter years of my childhood and early adolescent years there. Though we’d moved away for more than 10 years now, I still find myself frequenting the place, especially since I work near the vicinity. Shopping at NTUC Xtra and Cold Storage for groceries, browsing new cookbooks in the public library on the rooftop became much of a tea-time ritual before setting off to the evening appointments. Even so, I rarely dine there, save for some occasional visits to some delis in the basement or grabbing a sandwich at Subway when my tummy starts to rumble. This is because I’m usually there alone, lazing the afternoons away, or sneaking some time to grab some fresh produce when I’m in between appointments. That’s why despite walking pass Green Pumpkin Japanese Bakery umpteen times over the countless visits, I’d not opt for any takeaways from their cake fridge, as I’d feared that the delicate mousse or cream layers simply wouldn’t be able to make the trip home as I almost never go back directly, having to spend another couple of hours before heading home.
Hence, when the day came when I actually had the evening free, I didn’t have to think twice about grabbing a cake from the Green Pumpkin Japanese Bakery home for some photos and a quick sampling. In fact, I did better than that! I grabbed four…
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!
It was love at first sight! I remembered when I first saw them a couple of years ago at Bakerzin, Millenia Walk, I was immediately captivated by the myriad of colours these petite pastries are available in. Especially those in pastel yellow, pink and orange! So pretty! Looking so curious indeed! Back then very few places made these and they were not as popular as what we see today!