Each year, I wait with giddy anticipation for the summer months to arrive, during which time we can finally forgo the obscene number of layers of clothes and parkas for dainty sundresses and sandals. But this year, summer never came to Paris. With the exception of a few sunny yet cool days here and there, the weather has been rather dreary with unsually low temperatures. So, you can imagine how excited I was when the sun came out for a few hours and bathed us in a little bit of heat last Saturday. As I mentioned last week, we strolled aimlessly along the streets of Paris, wandering from the left bank, across to the right bank. Our first stop was at Sadaharu Aoki’s pâtisserie in the 6th arrondissement, which is only about a block or two away from the Luxembourg Garden.
Though Aoki has been in Paris since the early 90s and is well-known in Japan, he has not yet gained the celebrity that certain French pastry chefs have achieved, such as Pierre Hermé or Cyril Lignac. While in culinary school in Japan, he found his calling after discovering French pastries through a book. He is credited as being the first in France to use Japanese ingredients, such as matcha green tea, adzuki beans, and yuzu, and successfully incorporating them into French pastries. Obsessively dedicated to his craft, he spent countless hours perfecting his hybrid concoctions, which attracted the attention from the likes of the major fashion houses, such as Chanel, Dior and Kenzo. Before opening his first boutique in Paris, he catered events and parties thrown by these fashion big wigs. After successfully establishing himself in the realm of French pâtisseries, he took on the fabrication of chocolates and was named as one of the top 10 chocolate makers in France a couple of years ago.
I must have passed by Aoki’s mini boutique at the Lafayette Gourmet location at least a dozen times, each time intrigued by his exquisite creations that reinterpret traditional French pastries by infusing Japanese flavors. Last weekend, however, was the first time that I actually tasted one of his pastries. His pâtisserie in the 6th is small and unassuming, but is the perfect canvas for displaying his impeccably made pastries and chocolates. I was immediately seduced by the vibrant colors and foreign flavor combinations. After chatting a bit with the salesgirl, I finally decided to get the bamboo gâteau, which is his signature masterpiece, and the mister a croissant au thé matcha.
Aesthetically, Aoki has already elevated la pâtisserie française to another level, as you can see in the photos. With the bamboo gâteau, he took the traditional french opéra cake and flawlessly married its flavors with matcha tea, complementing the dark chocolate and coffee flavors of the ganache and joconde cake layers, without being too pronounced. He tempered the seaweed aftertaste from the matcha by adding an Alsacian kirsch, creating a more balanced flavor.
I was equally impressed by the matcha croissant as well. As with the opéra, he took something that is a quintessential French breakfast food and made it his own by infusing matcha into the pâte feuilletée (puff pastry), giving the interior a stunningly bright green color and a subtle aftertaste. Yet, he was able to preserve the essence of the croissant-its flakiness and pronounced buttery taste-the very things that make eating croissants so delectable!
If you ever find yourself in the 6th arrondissement, stopping by Sadaharu Aoki’s pâtisserie is an absolute must. Though a bit on the pricey side (€5.80 for the bamboo gâteau), it’s well worth it!
35, rue de Vaugirard