After Japanese pâtissier Sadaharu Aoki arrived in Paris in 1991, mastered French pastry making techniques through years of training and then opened his first pâtisserie (pastry shop) in the city in 2001 (on the Boulevard de Port-Royal), he caused quite the stir. His rigorous training taught him mastery of all the classics such as petit fours, napoléons, éclairs and macarons, but Aoki's pastries had a decidedly "Asian" touch through his use of traditional Japanese ingredients such as matcha (green tea powder), yozu (a lime-sized citrus fruit), kinako (soybean powder), sesame seeds and a handful of other "exotic" ingredients previously unheard of in the conservative French pastry world. Nine years and three boutiques later (four if you count Lafayette Gourmet), Aoki has conquered Parisian palates with the apparently seamless fusion between Japanese ingredients and French techniques as well as the beauty of the Japanese aesthetic that he brings to his creations.
Luckily for me, one of Aoki's boutiques in located just around the corner from my workplace. Although Aoki's masterpieces are too pricy to be an everyday indulgence (not to mention the fact that my hips don't need that kind of indulgence either!), I love walking by the boutique to admire the gorgeous treats in the window. The last time that I did this (and succumbed to a green tea napoléon), I noticed that beyond just pastries Sadaharu Aoki also offers a delicious-sounding prix-fixe Japanese lunch (including the pastry of your choice) at the bargain price of 20 Euros.
Deciding to check out this lunch today, I was happy to note that Sadaharu Aoki has a small, sleek open-plan kitchen, where a lovely Japanese woman was preparing the meal of the day (all of the staff at all of Aoki's boutiques are Japanese). The Segur boutique only has a handful of small tables, so I opted to sit at the bar facing the kitchen, getting a perfect view of the artistry going on in the kitchen. Though today's menu featured makis wrapped with beef and tuna, the staff generously offered a vegetarian version for me, consisting of a leek and potato soup, roasted red bell pepper salad marinated in garlic and anchovies (which I removed), summer rolls, marinated radishes and mounds of sushi rice sprinkled with yozu, sesame seeds and some other unidentifiable ingredients. Everything was beautifully presented, fresh, light and delicious.
So light and fresh in fact that when the waitress brought over the luscious looking dessert tray, I didn't even feel guilty in choosing the most beautiful and rich looking creation, a cassis and chocolat napoléon.
This was sinfully delicious and actually so rich that I could only finish half. As I paid and left though, I caught a glimpse of the other napoléons on offer, vowing to treat myself again in the not so distant future...
Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki
25, Rue Pérignon
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 06 02 71
Open 11am-7pm, Monday-Saturday
56, Boulevard de Port-Royal
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 35 36 80
Open 10am-7pm, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-7pm and 10am-6pm, Sunday
35, Rue de Vaugirard
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 44 48 90
Open 11am-7pm, Tuesday-Saturday and 10am-6pm, Sunday