Sadaharu Aoki, much like Pain de Sucre, is a font of creativity. Every time I walk in, it seems there’s something new to buy. Granted, it’s usually some variation of matcha, sesame, or praliné, but it definitely mixes things up. So when I was in there recently and saw this little alien’s triad of beady red eyes ogling me, I was like, “Oh, yeah, and I’m going to need one of those!” I was excited to see what Monsieur Aoki would do with an apple galette/tarte. But as the meek saleswoman packaged it, she knocked one of the red currants completely off. Were I less dignified, I would have immediately flipped the box up, like a 5-year-old might do to a checkboard upon losing, splattering the contents against her dress. Didn’t she understand I’d be taking photos? Her insolence! Anyway, I restrained myself to simply thrust my open-palmed hand toward the berry in question, allowing it to hover and quiver as I said, “Pouvez vous…?(Can you…?)” and then inhaled a deep breath through my tightly clenched teeth. She immediately realized what she’d done and scurried her nimble fingers to get it back in place. Crisis averted, I smiled, thanked her, paid and got the little one here home safely for a photo shoot.
The problem with photographing Aoki’s pastries is that I wind up with too many pretty shots that I have to trim down to the four I’ll feature. Today’s selection was extra difficult, as I had about twice as many pictures as I needed. They also tend to be on the more abstract side, which I never know if you, my dear readers, enjoy. Feel free to let me know. But anyway, the piece here is actually quite simple and comes with no hidden surprises . . . puff pastry, apples arranged at OCD level 10, and three little red currants, amidst a dusting of powdered sugar and sprinkle of pistachios. The currants were a tart complement to the remainder of the piece, which was relatively sweet. The apples had a pleasant texture, neither mushy nor too crisp, and had a delightful flavor of . . . apple. I could describe it a little more thoroughly if the greasy pastry beneath didn’t overwhelm the apples with the very undelightful flavor of . . . grease. Were Aoki in front of me at this very moment, I’d quote hairstylist Jonathan Antin and say, “Not cool, dude. Not cool.” But, honestly, whatever. Aoki has zero idea what the **** is going on half the time, and the other half it’s like he’s the Messiah of pastry. This is just one to toss in the trash, because the next piece will probably wow me.
But I’m not quite sure there will be a next piece from Aoki, as I walked by his Vaugirard boutique today to see it almost completely gutted! There were workmen in there, and it looked like a tornado had just blown through. Crazy. Thankfully I have a dozen of his pieces photographed and read-to-review, but I don’t know quite what’s happening. I assume it’s just renovations and not a closing . . . but there aren’t ever too many people in there, so who knows.
If we pretend Aoki comes back better than ever . . . don’t buy the apple galette. Also avoid his Zen, Saint-Marc and Tarte Citron. Just thinking about any of them makes my stomach churn. But do pick up a Bamboo or black sesame éclair. There are also a number of other excellent pastries, but you’ll have to wait for future reviews to unveil their majesty.