A less busy week with fewer kueh orders means more time to play and practice on pastry making. I return to play with french tarts this week, after one round of mixed fruit tarts last week. It is tarte aux citron et fraise frais this time round…
Springtime in Japan when everything is so beautiful. The weather is just starting to warm up a bit, when one can begin to embrace the earliest rays of the year while at the same time enjoy the cool from the remnants of the melting snow… The gardens are most lovely at this time of the year, as the ground awakens to the calls from the changing seasons and begins yet another year’s cycle. While we usher in the hanami season when cherry blossoms display their full regalia leaving all in their presence in awe, transfixed by their quiet beauty, the alluring fragrance from the plum blossoms still lingers in the air in some places and draws deep from within our soul, as we smile and sigh in the same breath, catching their final fleeting moments as the flowers dwindle and fade away to feed the sprouting soil…
Springtime is also a particularly important season for the Japanese. This is largely due to the availability of many fresh produce, bearing sharp contrast to much of the pickled foods which they would have eaten through the bitter winter months. The Japanese cuisine is one which is in harmony with the elements, changing with the seasons, tapping in the most opportunistic manner of what is the best to be eaten at what time of the year, depends entirely on what is available. While the cherry blossoms are most symbolic in Japan as the emblem of Spring, strawberries are also iconic and synonymous to this beautiful season in many ways. During springtime when strawberries are at their prime, most, if not all patisseries in Japan too roll out pastries themed after this much-loved fruit. Many of them do not take on fanciful and tongue twisting terms, but instead just a simple name like フレジエ Fraisier.
Whenever we are in Taipei, we’d always make it a point to drop by Sadaharu Aoki’s dessert salons in either Bellavita or Hotel Regent Taipei, and sometimes both! There are always something new or seasonal, like a surprise that awaits us to uncover! Last year, we had Sensuelle, a Hotel Regent Taipei exclusive and our visit to Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris earlier this year was no exception. There were two new creations that were just waiting for us to sample!
Strangely whenever we are in Tokyo, we never really thought much about visiting Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris unlike the others be it local like Hidemi Sugino or Hideki Kawamura, or the “imports” like Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin. I think it is because we were already sampled quite a few of his creations during our trips to Taipei where he has two dessert salons, in Bellavita and Regent Taipei. However, perhaps due to the quality of the local ingredients used or the level of sophistication his local pastry team is imbued with, friends who tried his cakes from Paris, Taipei and Tokyo told me that one could quite literally make out a difference in the “quality” of the creations between these places. Unlike the macarons and other petit gateau pour sec which are all flown in from France, the entremets and petit gateaus we see in the local stores are made in situ. Tokyo turned out to be their favorite, whose standards of pastry surpasses even those from the 6th arrondissement flagship store in Paris supposedly. That got me very curious and we knew we had to try it to believe it!
We have our own list of “must go” places and eateries which we try to make it a point to visit whenever we are in Taipei. And Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki is definitely high on that list. Well, Aoki has dessert boutiques in Tokyo too but there are far too many other patisseries in this Asian Capital of French pastry making as well which we have been want to visit (yes, yet another very long list!), to a point of being literally spoilt for choices. So we were “forced” to limit ourselves to Aoki san’s joints largely in Taipei and keep the visits to his Tokyo outlets down to once or twice (such a shame I know!), until the Japanese list of patisseries has been properly exhausted. But I doubt we’ll see that happening any time soon!
While 青木定治 Sadaharu Aoki’s signature creation, バンブー Bamboo is surely his most popular work, I couldn’t help but felt a bit shortchanged by its taste, or rather the lack of it. Its alluring visuals was simply not levelled up by similarly astounding flavours. But his バレンシア Valencia is quite a different story. Easily my favorite amongst Aoki creations, Valencia embodies everything which I felt an entremet should be, delicate and yet well-defined textures, contrasting flavours and of course, scoring high in its aesthetics. Having attempted to make it before earns Valencia a special position in my heart. Am I being biased? Well, I chose not to think so! LOL
Sadaharu Aoki, a name that is prominently featured in my blog. Yes, I’m a big fan of his work, and more so, his determination and perseverance to excel and be the best. Not an easy feat, especially for a Japanese who didn’t speak a word of French when he first landed in Paris at the age of 21 more than 20 years back But he was determined to make it big and went through a lot to bring himself to the level of international recognition and fame which he enjoys today. When his contemporaries like Hidemi Sugino and Hideki Kawamura chose to remain in Japan after winning international pastry competitions like Coupe du Monde, Aoki made his base in Paris instead. Seemingly what a Don Quixote would do, most would think, to make a name for himself in the epicentre of pastry making, where so many others have failed. The odds of succeeding were slim but that challenge suited him best. An urban fairytale for any pastry lover…