Sadaharu Aoki

Opéra au thé vert

Having heard many great things about Parisian-Japanese pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki, I was very eager to taste his edible creations for myself. I had often admired them at the Lafayette Gourmet store (okay, now I make it sound like I spend my life there when really I don’t, I go home to sleep and shower), but since I don’t usually buy pastries unless there is a good occasion — or at least deserving friends who will be happy to share them with me — I had so far limited myself to pure eye-candy enjoyment.

Sadaharu Aoki was trained in the art of pâtisserie in both Japan and France, so his work offers interesting Ginza-meets-Saint-Germain twists, slipping Japanese ingredients into typically French confections, and applying the Japanese sense of detail and intricacy to his presentation and packaging. His line includes pastries and entremets, cookies and cakes, chocolate confections and macarons — all of them strikingly beautiful and perfect, but never to the point of losing their appetizing power over the innocent, unsuspecting onlooker.

He has two boutiques in Paris, a corner at the Lafayette Gourmet store, and a handful of restaurants and salons de thé in Paris (all listed on his website) feature his pastries on their menu.

The perfect excuse to sample some of them recently presented itself, on an afternoon when I knew Maxence and I would be dining with our neighbors. I selected four (always a heartbreak — what of the others? will they be hurt and forever traumatized? must go back and make it up to them.) that we shared later that night after an excellent roasted chicken dinner:

Opéra au thé vert (green tea opera, pictured above): a staple of French pâtisserie since its invention by Gaston Lenôtre in the 60’s, the classic opéra alternates rectangular layers of tender almond biscuit, coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. Here the biscuit and buttercream were subtly infused with Matcha powder instead, so that every rich chocolate bite was followed by an aromatic green tea after-shadow, slightly seaweedy but in a good way.

Mille-feuille à la vanille (vanilla mille-feuille): this was the only pastry in my selection that didn’t have some Japanese inspiration, but I picked it because I had read that the chef was particularly talented in the mille-feuille department. My first choice would have been a Matcha mille-feuille, but the (young, pretty, Japanese) salesgirl informed me that these were only made to order now. The mille-feuille was indeed outstanding, the puff pastry perfectly flaky, the vanilla cream light and aerial, the nougatine topping thin and crunchy.

Eclair au sésame noir (black sesame éclair): a semi-recent trend in avant-garde Parisian pastry is to play little tricks on the classic éclair, stuffing it with interesting flavors of crème pâtissière and glazing it with fondant in all colors of the rainbow. This trend is spearheaded by Fauchon, who made it the house specialty and came up with bright red, pink, orange or even polka-dotted éclairs, flavored with cherry, green tea, rose, passionfruit or blood orange. Sadaharu’s take on this is more elegant I think, less in-your-face trendy, flavoring his with the nutty/smoky taste of black sesame and dressing his pâte à choux in a white sheath with discreet sprinkles of black. This was probably the most surprising one, taste-wise, and it was Maxence’s favorite.

Dôme au chocolat (chocolate dome): on a hazelnut cookie base, a dome of chocolate and ginger mousse with a chewy caramel heart. This one hadn’t caught my attention initially, but it came recommended by the salesgirl when I asked her advice about signature items. This was the most Pierre Hermé-y of the selection (well-balanced and complex, but childishly lip-smacking at the same time) and my favorite, too. But then again when you put chocolate ginger hazelnut and caramel all together in one confection, what can you expect?

Sadaharu Aoki
35 rue de Vaugirard, Paris 6è
56 bd du Port-Royal, Paris 5è
Also @ Lafayette Gourmet.

  • Hi Clotilde,

    Sadaharu Aoki, I thought of giving them a try while I was in Paris last week – just to see whether or not they make things the same in Paris and Tokyo. It was too late in the evening when I got there, though – there wasn’t much choice. So I still wonder. I did find the eclair, I really should have tried that one at least!

  • Hello,
    Have you ever tested the Japanese pâtisserie which stands on Place de la Madeleine (Minamoto Kitchoan) ? I’m always put off by the luxury of the window and I never dared to enter the place.
    It is typical japanese though… somehow fareway from what you’ve just described ! By the way : did you succeded in finding out the japanese side of these treats ?

  • Jenji

    Thank you for such a luscious description of these patisseries! I’ve always been terribly curious about the black sesame eclair—how does it balance the almost unsettling taste of the sesame with the cream?—but friends who’ve tried to describe it to me have only ever said it’s “great, delicious…” So much for trying it vicariously! Your specifics are the next best thing to tasting it.

  • thank you for the close-up photos of these startling and magnificent confections. I like when I can see deep into the crumb.

    I have been loving black sesame as a flavour for some time now. It’s dense and complicated and not everyone can like it, but the more innovative pastry chefs that use it the better we will all feel about trying it.

  • the green tea opera sounds good. i should experiment on that one soon! c”,)

  • Clotilde – love your recipes. And your writing style is a delectable concoction in itself; aromatic, warm and hearty, with a pinch of the exotic, a handful of charm, and the aftertaste of something intimate and homemade.

  • Erin

    *Drool* Those all sound amazing! I have a bag full of matcha packets in my cupboard….Recipe suggestions anyone? :o)

  • Keiko over at nordljus posted about green tea opera too, check it out (if you haven’t seen it already):

  • thanks for the beautiful pictures and detailed write-up! i enjoyed reading this very much!

  • Oh man… that looks yummy and all your desriptions make me feel desperate to taste ’em all! Damn, wish I didnt live in the UK for just that reason :) Gorgeous write-ups, in case I didnt mention that!

  • cd

    I am always so impressed by the photography and professional look of your blog. I have just started my own ….. very modest, though it is.

    I enjoy the fusion of cultural cuisines you talk about … as I lived in both France and Japan, I have had the amazing opportunity to sample both fabulous offerings….

    Continuez avec ces pages magnifiques!

  • Dan

    I feel like crying. I’m so hungry now.

  • Isabelle

    Hello Clotilde, I personally think that this is one of the best pastry chef ever. After having read so much about Pierre Hermé and bought his book, I gave it a try last time I was in Paris and was SOOOO deceived ! I was expecting a unique experience and Hermé for me turned out to be so average ! Actually, we have Pierre Hermés at every corner in the part of Switzerland where I live (and for half the price believe me). Let me know when you are around ! Then I found out about Sadaharu Aoki and my God !! this is what I call refinement !! I tasted almost everything and each and every bite was a new and fabulous experience !!!

  • Hi Clotilde – I’ve tried some of his matcha stuff, but I must say I wasn’t *that* impressed… I thought his classic French cakes were better than that. I’d love to try his black sesami eclair though.

  • isabelle

    I did it again !! spent last week end in Paris and treated myself with a fabulous lunch on Saturday: a millefeuille à la vanille, a “soleil” (my favourite) and a tartelette caramel au beurre salé. All of them were fabulous and I HOPE they plan to open a boutique in Geneva one of these days !

  • Kath

    I went into Aoki’s boutique store in Isetan in Shinjuku, Tokyo, last week. It sounds ridiculous but i nearly cried! My body tingled with the anticipation of seeing his work. It was incredible!
    I am heading to France, and was wondering if anyone knows the names of the most respected patisserie chefs there…so I can check them out!

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