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
This is the beginning of a series of reviews meant to be up much much later. Well, they really ought to have been done up long time ago. Life’s such an irony I know. Just earlier, I read an entry on someone’s visit to Pierre Herme in Paris and his take on the French pastry master’s macarons, analogising it to one of life’s many first times, those viriginal encounters which change one’s perspective of things and never to look back at the old ways again. That most certainly struck a chord which resonated deep within as I recall those precise moments, one of which was fairly recent. Not with Pierre Herme though, but at Sadaharu AOKI’s dessert boutique in Taipei last year.
We planned the trip way before the actual date, as we do with most of our overseas excursions, ensuring that our itineraries would allow us to maximise the experience with the minimal amount of time we had. Been to Taiwan for a number of times now, this was my first visit to experience the country’s pastisserie scene. We had a number of places in mind, from smaller and more local dessert shops and cafes, to international names like Joel Robuchon and Jean Paul Hevin’s joints which recently anchored in Taipei. However, top on our list were the two dessert salons by Sadaharu Aoki. As some of you already know, I’m a big fan of his work, with attempts to reconstruct some of his creations. But his pastries and desserts remain elusive and somewhat mysterous, with very little recipes in circulation. Even those which are going around the internet and even publications are somewhat dubious in terms of their genuinity. So this trip to Taipei was the perfect opportunity to experience firsthand how his masterpieces are like. And sampling we most certainly did. This would definitely go down as one of life’s many first times. Konnichiwa Aoki san, Hajimemashite, dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
I remember watching Nicole Kidman’s Moulin Rouge exactly a decade ago during my undergrad days, bedazzled by the fascinating sets and exuberant costumes. This razzle-dazzle like fantasy on the life of a young Parisian socialite, Satine leading a life of absinthe-dripped extravagance (Yes! thanks to Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy!), swooned by men from the streets of Paris, enchanted by her flamboyance, all flocking to the renowned cabaret just to be gleamed by her beauty. ‘Gorgeously decadent, massively contrived, and gloriously superficial‘, are just some of the words used by critics on the movie but I say this is a mere understatement. Filled with song and dance, laughter and tears, this must have been one of the most refreshing musical films we’d seen in this century, since the days of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Hilariously funny and at the same time, heart-pouring empathic, the movie is quite literally a roller-coaster ride. I particularly enjoyed the large scale scenes of song and dance, bearing overtones of a Bollywood production! And how cleverly used it was, such a classic! Now in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense to me the French artistic and haute coulture scene during that era must have been extremely curious and captivated by influx of Oriental and Asian elements, fueling ideas for Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles and Massenet’s Thaïs. And hence the elephants, saris and turbans we saw in the Maharaja scene. Entertaining and at the same time thought -provoking, at least for me!
When I first learned of Pierre Hermé’s Satine dessert series a couple of months back, I couldn’t help but feel extremely curious about the association of the PH’s confections with the Moulin Rouge. Paris, decadence, sugary indulgence, flair and flamboyance… the resemblance between the two is just too uncanny. I’m also very curious to know what it tastes like. Needless to say, very little is mentioned over the internet. ph10 has some recipes of desserts from the Satine series but being a rather technical and clinically written publication, no word on the source of inspiration. Alas, the recipe for the Macaron Satine could be found in PH’s Macaron and I had to get myself a copy and hopefully solve the puzzle. But wait a minute, since when do we ever need
an excuse justification for buy PH’s works!?
So did I solve the mystery?
The world of pastry making is undoubtedly dominated by the French patissiers. Big names like Pierre Herme, Gerard Mulot and Phillippe Conticini easily comes to mind. Last year, I read a listing for the “10 Top Patisseries in Paris” on another blog and two things struck me the most. Firstly, Pierre Herme is missing from the list. “OMG!!!??” I exclaimed to myself. Why was the Picasso of Patissiers left out from the list!? Only upon reading further did I realised that the author had done that after much deliberation, as names like Pierre Herme, LaduRee and Lenotre would be stating the obvious. I couldn’t agree more.