There are a number of techniques a chef can use to make his pastries extra appealing to the average pastry shop customer. It’s almost to the point that you could make a little chart of popular ingredients in one column, popular compositions in another, and garnishes in the third. Take violets + “suggestive” shapes + sugar work and you get Carl Marletti’s Lily Valley. Take fruit + a dome + gold and you get Café Pouckine’s Tutti Frutti. Or take hazelnuts/chocolate + aggressive layering + a macaron and you have Sadaharu Aoki’s Chocolat Pralin. It’s a snap!
Now, the thing with Monsieur Aoki is that he knows he’s onto a good thing. So when it came time to create a new pastry this last spring he just took the Chocolat Pralin, swapped the hazelnuts for raspberries, and the Sensuelle here was born. What it lacks in creativity it certainly makes up for in saleability. If that sounds like I’m taking a swipe at Monsieur Aoki’s work, well, that’s because I am am. But creative commentary aside, how does it taste?
Pleasant enough . . . I guess. Working down through the layers, the milk chocolate / orange cognac crème layer is unsurprisingly milk chocolately with a fairly generously squirt of the cognac. Perhaps the crème is a bit texturally grainy, but the somewhat timid chocolate biscuit beneath it helps disguise that sensation. Then there’s the raspberry gelée layer that I found a wee too gelatinous, a bit too much in short supply, yet decidedly raspberry enough to make the fruit a significant force in the overall taste experience. And what about the feuilletine praliné and hazelnut dacquoise that rested beneath it all? Ehhh, you know I think hazelnuts are overused. Fortunately they weren’t too potent here, but they nonetheless could have been omitted. Oh, and the macaron was nice – not a taste sensation but also then not distracting from the main body of the piece. As a whole package, I guess I could say the Sensuelle was edible though underwhelming.
I was also a bit dismayed by the execution of the layers. The chocolate biscuit was oddly wavy for an Aoki piece. I think there’s a young lad or lass back in the kitchen who might need to get slapped around a few times, lest this happen again. Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s not an easy task. It’s just that when I’m buying fine Parisian pastry, I want it to look as close to perfect as is humanly possible. I’m also just a picky *******.
So, no, I can’t say I’d recommend Monsieur Aoki’s Sensuelle. His sesame éclair, tarte caramel, and other assorted goodies are must-haves, but this raspberry-chocolate effort just left me unimpressed. And especially when I compare it to more remarkable raspberry-chocolate hybrids, such as a certain Jean-Paul Hévin classic, I can’t help but be candid in my assessment. Oh, Monsieur Aoki!
SUPER SPECIAL: Wednesday is going to be huge! I’m finally unveiling the first pastry created at my direction and to my exacting specifications. In fact, it’s so personalized that it is literally my namesake. Get ready to behold Le Péché d’Adam from Un Dimanche à Paris. Caramel, chocolate and peanuts are joining forces to take the Parisian pastry scene by storm!