pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris @ Taipei – Bamboo
青木定治 Sadaharu Aoki’s バンブー Bamboo , his signature creation which first led me to know his works and made me very curious about him. The aesthetics of it is really quite astounding. Well, none of the clever use of avant garde juxtapositions one would find in the works of revolutionaries like Christophe Adam of course, but its beauty is sheer sublime. There are some works which ranked as being “unparallel” in design and built by many. Pierre Herme’s Plasir Sucre is one of them, Gaston Lenôtre ‘s L’ Concorde is another and more recently, Christophe Adam’s Eclair Aquatique. Surely Sadaharu Aoki’s Bamboo must stand amongst this stellar cast. Or must it?
No, it doesn’t have gawdy colour schemes in hot pink or electric blue. That would be his Saya. Nor is it overloaded with all sorts of exotic fruits and what-nots. That would be his Tarte Fruits aux Rouges. Its simplicity in design is almost zen-like. Basically a reconstruction of Dalloyau’s L’Opéra, Sadaharu Aoki’s Bamboo, an Opéra au thé vert 抹茶でアレンジしたオペラ, preserved the integrity of the multi-layered gateau in its essence with paper-thin layering. Well, almost!!!
The components of the cake are fairly straightforward – biscuit jaconde, créme au thé vert, ganache au chocolat noir and punch au thé vert, alternated in recurring progression. Unlike the traditional cake which is covered with a chocolate mirror glacage, Aoki made Bamboo his drawing canvas by first flocking it and then free-formed streaks of matcha glacage over it, before dusting over with snow powder and matcha powder. His perception of
So it looks fantastic yeah? But how did the taste test go? Well here’s the chronology of the first bite. In goes a forkful… hmm… aroma of the matcha really cuts through…nice… the bitterness from the green tea amidst the sugary buttercream…good balance…hmm.. then the joconde… a tad too dry… hmm…the chocolate ganache… where’s the chocolate?! hmm… that’s it?
First, the likes. I love the use of matcha. Loved the interplay of bitterness with the sweetness from the butercream. Matcha on its own, bearing contrast to matcha whipped into the buttercream. Same ingredient but such dramatically different taste!
Then the buttercream. Being subdued by the matcha, the buttercream was not too sweet. I like! Aoki continued his success in breaking the cloying buttercream stereotype which I had for the longest time. First in the macarons, and now in Bamboo. Good job!
Then I’d realised that the joconde was a tad too too dry for my liking, either being in the oven for a tad too long because it was baked at too low temperatures, or simply because the pastry chef in-charge of assembling it stinged on the punch au thé vert. Probably a bad day in the kitchen…
Then the chocolate ganache. I was looking hard for it, expecting the cocoa flavours to surface subsequently. anticipating the darker and richer tones from the chocolat noir used. Alas those flavours didn’t come through. The chocolate layers were simply too thin to be made out properly. Virtually non-descript. Hmm… a bit disappointing there admittingly.
A look at the cross-section revealed rather evenly layering, albeit each individual layer being very thinly applied. Looks quite neat on this end yeah? The other aint so unfortunately, the matcha buttercream was missing in some parts owing to the uneven surface of the joconde. And this more or less perpetuated throughout the entire longitude of the petit gateau. The layering on the whole was rather shoddily executed. A one-off mistake on a bad bake day? Or a general dip in quality of craftsmanship of Aoki patissiers in Taipei? Too premature to say, though I certainly hope its not the latter.
Unlike Sadaharu Aoki’s macarons and chocolates which are directly imported from France, all the breads, petit gateau and entremets are produced in a central kitchen in northern Taipei. Hence, it has been much deliberated that there’re slight variations, or discrepancies depending on how you view it, in the presentation and taste of cakes compared to his boutiques in Paris and Tokyo, with those at the French capital being the most well-made while the ones in Taipei scoring the lowest. Well, I have not gotten the chance to sample his creations in Paris or Tokyo yet. I wish I could soon! Til then, there’re no means of comparison for quality of the pieces I’d sampled, which is good in some sense of it, since it allows me to appraise the cakes in an unbiased manner on what they should taste like.
On the whole, the piece has its hits and misses. I love the overall presentation of the piece. Then again, I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t! But the consistency of the layering leaves much to be desired. A one-off idiosyncracy I hope! I love the carefully weighed out levels of sweetness. The matcha notes and hue both in visual and palate textures are prominent but not too bitter but the chocolate ganache was basically non-descript. The sponge also need a tad more work to make the entire piece homogenise more smoothly. The bits of dryness was frankly quite jarring in the mouth.
Would I try it again? Yes I would. But probably not in Taipei. Paris, definitely!
Would I recommend this piece? Well yes, if you are a hardcore dessert aficionado like yours truly and/or a great admirer of Sadaharu Aoki’s work. And come with an unbiased attitude, and not be clouded by how astounding it ought to be.
For me, its a good piece of work. Just not as astonishing as I thought it would be.