Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Pumpkin Harvest : Superfood for the Body

Tis Season is not only about Marrons, but also pumpkins. With the upcoming Halloween, many patisseries have come up with pumpkin-related cakes, bread and puddings. Pumpkin itself is known as a superfood for the body. Why? 
Ebisu Pumpkin

The alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are potent antioxidants found in pumpkin and are pro-vitamin A carotenoids, meaning the body converts them to vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes healthy vision and ensures proper immune function. The beta-carotene in pumpkin may also reverse skin damage caused by the sun and act as an anti-inflammatory. Alpha-carotene is thought to slow the aging process and also reduce the risk of developing cataracts and prevent tumor growth. Carotenoids also boost immunity and lessen the risk of heart disease. To read more about this superfood, click here.

So that gives us the excuse to indulge in pumpkins desserts!
Here are some of the pumpkin items. They are generally well made but there are some misses though.
Tartelette ala creme de Potiron  Kabocha(Pumpkin) Beurre Tart
accented with bitter orange and caramel
By Henri Carpentier
The pumpkin paste that is sitted on top of the tart outshines that by Sugar Butter Sand Tree/Ginza Budou (shown below). The paste is smooth and not too rich/creamy. As such, one can deduce that the pumpkin component was made with a high ratio of pumpkin to cream, but not too much pumpkin such that it turns off the consumers.

Kabocha Tart by Ginza Budou
This one stood out for its pumpkin-horse carriage南瓜马车 look but the taste is rather unsatisfying compared to the above. Guess Ginza Budou should stick with its hot-seller item that always has a long queue....its signature ultimate sugar butter pie.
The paste is too thick, dry and tough. The paste will stick together in small clumps even though the pumpkin ball is deconstructed. They are way thicker than the red bean paste in manjus, mochis or even our chinese dou sha bao. The marinated pumpkin slices were too hard to bite.

Kabocha Pie By Patisserie de Bon Coeur
pumpkin+caramel+pie filled with some nuts
This is a simple but well-executed variation of the pumpkin tart. The tart base was not made up of digestive crumbs but not puff pastry either. The consistency of the pumpkin section hit the jackpot, as the sweetness was accented by the caramel cream at the top.


More importantly, the chef has stated that it was made with Hokkaido Ebisu Pumpkin, which is one of the top-notched pumpkins from Hokkaido, famous for its strong sweetness. According to the farmers, the season of ebisu pumpkins ends by October, so if anyone comes across ebisu pumpkins in other periods of the year, they are likely to be imported from New Caledonia, Russia, Tonga or Mexico.

Pumpkin Pie by Sola
the pie layer stood out among the rest.
A giant pumpkin pie made up of a unique texture of pie that resembles puff pastry but not exactly it itself. The bowl shaped pie base is so hard to break through with a fork. However, the contents were very generous as it consisted of pumpkin mousse, fresh cream, custard and sponge---the all too familiar combinations in a pastry that features pumpkin as the core ingredient. This looks smaller than the actual size of the item.
Pumpkin Pudding from Hokkaido 居酒屋しんや
This is a famous pudding shop in 札幌市. 
the pudding scale by Pudding d'Or. Click here for the official website
The pudding texture is classified as mid-range sweetness and pretty hard on the "pudding scale" is used by the shop Pudding d'Or where this was bought from. Pudding d'Or is a shop that featured all the famous puddings and often limited editions puddings from all over Japan. The puddings on sale changed very fast and so it is better to grab those that you like once you spot one.
 It was quite rare to eat a "hard" pudding but the sweetness was not too overpowering with the bitter caramel liquid at the bottom. Still I would prefer a soft pudding.


For the pumpkin-banana caramel mousse tart by Payard, click here 

Friday, October 21, 2011

高島屋新宿店 パティシェリア:A Taste of Regional Cakes

It is often difficult to access the cakes that are delicately made by individual chefs whose shops are outside Tokyo. However, in Shinjuku Takashimaya, there is a semi-cafe cum exhibition booth that displays the works of at least 10 different pastry chefs every day. The chefs featured changed every season or monthly and there is also information regarding the chefs who are featured.
きのうのおみやげスイーツ☆新宿 高島屋 パティシェリア☆
きのうのおみやげスイーツ☆新宿 高島屋 パティシェリア☆
As such, one can get a view of the top-notched cakes by budding chefs who might not have the budget to open a shop in Tokyo. However, the problem for the consumer arise when one has to choose which one to try.

ノワイエ All about Walnuts
Walnuts Tart, Pecan Nougat, Walnut Mousse
くるみのタルト、胡桃のヌガー、くるみのムースを組み合わせました。
ムースの軽さ、ヌガーにカリカリとした食感、タルトのサクサクの食感とコク、口の中に広がるいろんな胡桃の風味

I am not a great fan of nuts but this cake really suits my taste. It is the first time coming across a cake that features all about one main type of nut--walnut. Since walnuts are good for the brain, there is more than sufficient reason to eat this. The mousse has a nutty aroma but not sweet at all. The caramelized walnuts at the centre has a dark bitter taste which adds a contrasting texture to the cake. The tart shell is literally not a typical tart shell. Why? Because it has some holes in it that makes it seem like a thin wafer-like biscuit.

店長の藤巻正夫です
店長の藤巻正夫です。The cake was made by him and I must say that he looks like a kind person=) which might be why the cake was very worth the money for that size and the quality. It is the biggest among the cakes listed in this post.

Jeanー Paul Thiebaut's Petite Package  プチパケ
The presentation is very interesting as the outer layer is made up of entirely solid dark chocolate. Can't tell what is hidden inside and thus it has a Suprise! element.
The Surprise in the Box!
To eat the cake, one has to open the box, which is literally lifting the chocolate box and tadaa....the delicious mousse cake is revealed. Not sweet and the combination of coffee-chocolate-caramel-praline crunch is my one of my favourites.
JEAN PAUL THIEBAUT [ジャンポールチェボー]
The chocolate present box is made by Chef Jean Paul Thiebaut, who is the only foreigner chef featured here.

La Vie Douce's Caramel Poire 【LA VIE DOUCE(ラ・ヴィ・ドゥース)】ポワールキャラメル
国産の洋ナシを使用したケーキ, 洋ナシのシャリシャリとした食感が楽しめます。
This is a vanilla accented pear mousse sitting on top of a swiss roll of caramel mousse. The pear mousse had the natural sweetness to it but the sponge layer of the swiss roll was slightly dry and tough.
LA VIE DOUCE

La Vie Douce has two shops. One in Shinjuku and the other in Yokohama.For more info: http://www.laviedouce.jp/

Platino's Coffee Meringue プラチノ

プラチノオーナー 田勢克也
Owner and Chef 田勢克也 of Platino. He started the shop with his wife and once again, all their products are hand made by the chef. For more info: http://www.platino.jp/index.html
The coffee meringue looked quite interesting to me as I wonder what else could be hidden inside the cake. However, as the cake is sliced into half, the components are actually the mousse and the meringue. The bitter coffee mousse did manage to curb the sweetness of the meringue but its simplicity makes it less impressive than the rest of the cakes.

Puissance ピュイサンス
キャラメル風味のガナッシュをヘーゼルナッツメレンゲで挟み、ヘーゼルナッツバタークリームで包みましたThis one consists of a top and bottom hazelnut meringue and mainly sandwiched with hazelnut buttercream. The dark layer is the caramel ganache.
cross section of the cake
This is wrapped with toasted hazelnuts chips. This entremet was slightly disappointing as it was served right out from the refrigerator and this affected the texture. As the cake was made up of buttercream, the taste was too rich, not rich as in the creamy sense but leaning towards eating solid butter. I would prefer if this is mixed with some hazelnut mousse. The hazelnut flavour was not very accented and makes this Puissance's cake an average one.

Chef 井上佳哉 of Puissance
Puissance is a shop in Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City. The shop was opened in September, 2001. For more info, http://www.puissance.jp

Patisserie Le Planetes'  Millefeuille Caramel
ミルフィーユ キャラメル
パイ生地の間にカスタードクリームをサンドし 上に塩入キャラメルを流したシンプルなミルフィーユ。
Le Planetes is a shop by Chef Koji Yamamoto. The first shop was in Omiya northern suburbs of Tokyo and has since opened 3 more shops in Yokohama and Fukuoka. Like many other chefs, he also conducted classes, teaching many of his signature cakes to mostly female students.
The caramel millefeuille is quite different from the rest because it has a gooey top caramel that is not as liquid as it seems. It sticks on to the top puff pastry and will not make a mess. The puff pastry is very crispy but the custard cream was too sweet. The salted caramel taste was too light to be noticeable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Payard New York & Henri Carpentier


Francois Payard 
François Payard is a third generation French Pastry Chef born in Nice on July 16th, 1966. François cultivated his passion for the art of Pastry as a child in his grandfather’s acclaimed shop, Au Nid des Friandises on the Riviera. He grew up surrounded by the delicious classic French pastry in the tradition carried on by his parents and grandparents for over fifty years.
This is his only shop cum cafe in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. There are only about 10 seats available so most people would takeaway the cakes. The other one is in Yokohama.
In 1998, he was acknowledged for this by being awarded “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the Bon Appétit Food & Entertainment Awards and again in 2001 by the International Pastry Competition Committee-Beaver Creek. In July of 2004, François was honored with the prestigious Ordre du Mérite Agricole, Medal of Honor by the French Government. And in 2005, he received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world as well as being selected in 2006 as a member of Relais Desserts International a professional association of the 85 Best Pastry Chefs in the World.François was also honored with the Dom Pérignon Award Of Excellence for 2010. 
The Bar Seats with nice lightings
If you choose to dine in at the cafe, do try the signature chocolate ice cream. I saw many people ordering it though I haven't tried it yet.
Payard's Signature Lourve Cake
This cake really lives up to the name of Francois Payard as the quality of the chocolate is really good and stands out from the crowd.


Enrobed in a chocolate glaze is the dark chocolate mousse, centred with a hazelnut mousse accented with coffee, hazelnut dacquoise (white sponge looking layer) and hazelnut wafer)
This creation will not make you feel too sick of chocolate after having it. The texture of the mousse is also just right as compared to some that are too dense.


[Seasonal Item] Verrine Du Japonais (Hazelnut milk chocolate mousse, with Yuzu curd and topped with Marron Cream)
I guess the Japonais must have been inspired by the ingredient Yuzu. Somehow, it seems like anything that contains Yuzu implies something Japanese to the Westerners. Hmm, seems like the theory of Orientalism can apply to food as well. Well, this was delicious but not very exciting. It would be better if the components of the verrine are more varied as the dominant flavour was just simply the hazelnut mousse.


[Seasonal Limited Edition] Pumpkin Banana Walnut Mousse Tart
Those who do not like banana will find this acceptable as the amount of mash bananas is not too much and its better than eating slices of them. The combination of pumpkin+banana can be a little too sweet but the tart shell is definitely well executed.

Henri Carpentier is another very popular patisserie shop in Japan and can be found almost everywhere. However, the quality of the cakes remained very high and one would always find new items as usual on the shelves. Having tried their cakes on many different ocassions, it is still quite surprise to know that the shop is in fact, opened by a Japanese called 蟻田尚邦 and not a French man. The first shop was opened in 1969 in 阪神。Anyway, here are the two latest creations that were released in October. 
紅芋と本の香糖の金赤ムース
[seasonal] Mousse Rouge ala Patate Douce
sweet potato mousse, burnt sugar mousse.
since my photos of the cross section of cakes are always quite hideous, it is better to show the components using the photos from the official website.
(from top to bottom: sweet potato mousse, cream cheese blancmange, sweet potato paste and sponge layer)
香糖 actually translates into burnt sugar. 紅芋 is equivalent to purple sweet potato. 
[seasonal] The Ultimate Black Tart (no chocolate at all)
黒ゴマとバナナの漆黒タルト
Tarte Noire au Sesame et Banana
from top to down: Black sesame mousse, banana compote, almond cream that has been added with traditional japanese bean paste, black tart shell
Both the red cake (above) and this black tart stood out among the many cakes that I've tried because of they are made out of many different components and thus it must have taken the chefs quite an amount of time to assemble them. Furthermore, the core ingredients like sesame and sweet potato are seldom used in such a manner, which made them looked and tasted interesting.
For more information about Henri Carpentier: http://www.henri-charpentier.com
Upcoming posts will feature halloween-themed pastries!




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

洋食:Tsubame Grill, Kobe Doria & Wolfgang Puck's Pizza

Many restaurants that sell Western food here mostly adopt a fusion concept rather than purely sticking to the origins( that is purely French or Italian or British, etc). Of course those that feature purely Italian or French cuisine can be found in such a cosmopolitan city like Tokyo but be prepared to pay for the cost of a luxurious fine-dining experience.

Well, this post is a snapshot of the fusion food here that mostly cater to the local working adults, students or family. 3 restaurants will be covered here. They have franchises all over Japan but I must say that they tasted better than Sazeriya.

神戸元町ドリア あみプレミアムアウトレット店は、茨城県にあるドリア専門のお店です。

First up, its the Kobe Doria and their tasty claypot rice.  The creamy baked rice here is actually the western style rather than the Singapore style. However, unlike the italian baked rice, the amount of cheese used in the sauce base is much reduced. Therefore, it is unlikely to get sick of the cheesy sauce, but rather the more you eat, the tastier the rice gets.

They offer affordable set lunches. For 1180 Yen (excluding taxes), there is the main rice, drink (not in diagram), salad and choice of dessert and/or a side  potato) 

The potatoes here are very special because they are not fried like chips or as a whole topped with sour cream. Rather, they are either baked or steamed and that might result in its very soft texture. Probably a healthy alternative to deep fried wedges. However, the dessert of the day, white yuzu panna cotta, was disappointing. Rubbery and had an artificial taste. It left a deep impression because it is difficult to find a below average dessert in Tokyo.

焼きなすと熟成ベーコンのトマトクリームドリア (set lunch)
Grilled Eggplant with Bacon in Tomato Cream Doria


ぷりぷり海老の伊勢海老風味クリームドリア 1180円(ala carte)
Ebi Prawn Seafood Cream Doria

若鶏と新鮮きのこの和風クリームドリア 880円 (ala carte)
Chicken and Fresh Mushrooms Japanese style Cream Doria

Each doria is specially baked and served with an empty bowl so that it is more convenient for the customers to dig the rice and place it in the bowl. The restaurant was crowded with people even though it was past lunchtime. However, though the food was piping hot and delicious, be prepared to wait very long before digging in.

Next up, it is the world celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's restaurant. He has opened CUT, a very very expensive fine dining restaurant serving grill and steaks at Marina Bay Sands. However, the concept he has adopted for his restaurants here is a much more family oriented. The slogan is "Live" "Love" and "Eat".

The place that we've visited was Wolfgang Restaurant at LUMINE, Shinjuku. The place sells California Cuisine like pizzas, burgers, meats, pastas and risottos. In fact, there are also Wolfgang Cafe, Wolfgang Express styled for our customers that want to experience some of the most popular dishes made famous by Wolfgang and enjoy them in a contemporary with friendly service.) and also Wolfgang American Kitchen.

And why did we enter the restaurant? Because we saw this poster at the door! It had been recommended on a Japanese Variety Show. Strange as it sounds, the smoked salmon pizza had been awarded the US Academy Award! 

US Academy Smoked Salmon Pizza (the real full name of this pizza)
9 inch-1500 Yen 
Good for sharing between 2 people.

So how did it fare?
The salmon slices were generously layered on top of the dill cream. The pizza base is very different from the pizza at Osteria Mozza MBS. It is considered a thin layer pizza but certainly not as thin as the Skinny pizza. It is less chewy but crunchier. There were no pores or baked lumps around the pizza crust and so it really depends on what kind of pizza you prefer. The combination of salmon and dill cream is hard to go wrong and so i would not say that this is the best tastiest pizza. Nonetheless, one can go ahead and figure out what makes it win the academy award (I still do not know the answer myself)

Mud Chocolate Cake 400Yen
Very rich  and sinful chocolate cake that tasted like a brownie. 
However, I would suggest that one should avoid desserts in restaurants here as there are really many good patisseries shop located at the basement of department stores. They serve better value-for-money cakes=)

In short, if only Wolfgang Puck could open such a more affordable restaurant in Singapore and not only opening the CUT at MBS......

Last but not least, it is the western grill restaurant,Tsubame Grill, that has another long history that can be traced till pre-World War 2. 
つばめグリル

つばめ( Tsu-ba-me) was actually named after a train "特急つばめ”which first departed from Tokyo Station on 1st Oct 1930. The shop was opened at the Shimbashi stop, which that train service would pass by. To commemorate the train, the shop was thus named Tsubame Grill.
つばめ風ハンブルグステーキ

The signature dish of the restaurant is the Hamburger Steak, which already existed since 1974. At the point of time, it was not served in such posh hot grill plates, but rather, each hamburger steak was wrapped in aluminium foil. Another popular item is the Beef Stew. No additional chemical preservatives or flavouring is added to every single dish on its menu. Even up till now, they are continued with cooking the hamburger steak in aluminium foil as they believed this would bring out the best flavour of the meat. 

和風ハンブルグステーキセット 1480円
Japanese Hamburger Steak with Mustard and Shoyu and Baked Potato (Dinner Set with soup and rice/bread)
This time, no one ordered the Tsubame Steak but the Japanese style Hamburger Steak instead. This comes as part of the dinner set that includes soup and rice. The hamburger steak is made of minced beef and vegetables and thus the texture is very soft. The seasoning was just right and paired well with the Japanese Shoyu. They are quite generous with the rice as they serve one whole plate of it.
The pumpkin soup that comes along with the dinner set
Pumpkin is featured nowadays since it is the seasonal vegetable and Halloween is approaching.

帆立貝のクリームコロッケ1000円
Scallop Croquette (ala carte)
This is actually one of the 6 main signature dishes featured on their regular menu. The croquette is freshly made and was extremely creamy. It was thoughtful to pair the fried croquettes with tartar sauce, pumpkin mash and generous warm vegetables (instead of cold salad)

青森県陸奥湾産の帆立貝 
Aomori Scallops
For most croquettes, the meat is very little or literally invisible. But here, one can get chunks of fresh scallops! They actually put in effort to describe in detail how each one was made. For more details, click : http://www.tsubame-grill.co.jp/menu/menu03.html

In short, Grill Tsubame is a place where the freshness of the food will not be compromised and a place with cosy ambience for family, groups or couples.





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