As I write this, it’s 10AM Wednesday, and I’ve already had a Ladurée croissant, pain au raisins-canelle, and a kugelhof . . . and a Pierre Hermé Tarte Vanille Infiniment . . . and three espressos. While some might call that quantity of morning pastry “unhealthy”, “binge eating”, or even “dangerous”, I simply call it breakfast. One could say lunch technically begins at 11, so I’ll soon be standing at the doors of Sadaharu Aoki, ready to buy the above for the 10th time, along with an assortment of other to-be-reviewed goodies. As my brother put it during his visit last week, the plan is really to stay “hyper-nourished”. That’s why I lost 20lbs. before I moved here; I knew it would easily be regained during my 3-month-long stay. And as my newest obsession, Aoki’s Sésame Noir is helping me regain those poids perdu. If you really are what you eat, I’m about to become at least 10% black sesame éclair . . .
I think I can break down your reaction to this into one of three categories. Number one: “Black what éclair? Sesame? That sounds disgusting.” Number two: “Oh, a Japanese chef using black sesame – [with a roll of the eyes] how original and exotic. Never saw that coming.” Number three: “That is weird. Seriously – that’s really weird. But, yes, I would like to eat several of those right now.” How did yours truly react the first time I came across it? It was a mix of #2 and #3. I’d be far more dazzled if he crafted some weirdo éclair from non-Asian ingredients, yet I love black sesame seeds (black rice, too, of course). So I had the meek shop-girl toss one into a paper sleeve for me to eat en route to the grocery store. One bite and I was in love. Tender choux, not-too-sweet glaze, smooth well-balanced sesame crème, and that color . . . the crazy grey/blue/purple of black sesame bleeding into its environs. Amazing. The warm earthy nuttiness delivered by the sesame is unlike anything I’ve enjoyed in an éclair before.
I have to call it like I see it and hand out one of my rare 5 star ratings to the Sésame Noir. While Aoki typically has fairly uneven work, where sugar content is askew or flavors are out of line, I don’t think you could change a thing in this piece. It has textural and flavor perfection, plus internal aesthetic appeal and, as éclairs go, a high degree of originality in the composition. Even with the finest chocolate or vanilla éclair in front of me, I’d reach for this. It is an exceptional piece of work.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the extra abstract photos today, loyal readers. There are only so many angles from which to shoot an éclair, so extremely tight shots of organic sesame arrangements and éclairs in stereo, as in the top shot, seemed the way to go. As long as they’re pretty enough to spur you into picking up a couple of these on your next visit to Aoki, I’ve done my job. The more the better, and God knows I haven’t had enough pastry yet today.
Oh, and do you ever wish you could have pastry like this hand-delivered to you every morning? Well, you can. Just add Paris Patisseries as a friend on Facebook. You deserve a daily dose of Paris’ finest.