As someone who finds most delight in Little Britain in the Dennis Waterman sketch and my most vivid childhood dreams being ones where perspective expanded and contracted regardless of retreat or advance, I felt at home with my tray at Freshness Burger on my last day in Tokyo. It would be quite a diet. Wired and hungry.
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As I’m not likely to be heading to Paris any time soon, Tokyo would be as convenient a place as any to try the wares of the highly rated Pierre Herme. Pierre Herme is a pastry chef that brings delight to more discerning women than any other, additionally and not entirely unrelated he is also the patron saint of large hairy men who hope to attract the avid attentions of large numbers of women. The shop is in Aoyama, by coincidence, a five minute walk from where I was handily going to pick up a wad of cash. Off I went, found it, and waited 20 minutes out the front anxiously trying not look like somebody waiting for the pub to open so they could have their first pony of sherry for the day (see also clinic, methadone).
I’m not sure what I was expecting, given the praise heaped upon his macaroons I would have been disappointed with anything less than the sensation of a thousand angels brushing their sugar dusted nipples across my tongue in ecstatic unison. Discretely, for such a moment, I was fortunate enough, in lieu of a booth, to have the second floor cafe all to myself. One small potentially embarrassing situation was with the menu with a set containing three items and I wasn’t sure whether I just ordered the set and got all three and looked like a glutton or asked for one and seemed unusually parsimonious. I settled for saying signature set and them mumbling mousse with an airy hand wave that could suggest etcetera if need be.
First to present itself was a small spongy treat accompanying my espresso. Me and the waitress managed to communicate that it was fig and that was the filling with cinnamon of a raspberry sponge thing. The sponge thing actually had the same texture of an extremely fresh licorice allsort and was much enjoyed for it.
The signature set arrived and it was three glasses which could be described as three ways of making desserty chocolate and then putting something on top. The first was coconut milk, tapioca, and passionfruit. The next was coffee ice-cream. And the last was mascarpone with cubes of pain d’epices on top (can’t catch me, Je suis le pain d’epices homme!). This was the best I could distill from the friendly waitress pre-espresso, fig was hard work enough. Mind you not friendly enough to turn a blind eye and let me snap away with my indiscreetly large camera.
And yes it was nice. Since I don’t sensorially respond strongly to desserts and I don’t make enough to appreciate from a technical perspective. It’s like showing the innards of an F1 engine to someone who only knows they’re the things that go broom. Undeniably it was charming, the mousse part begged to be dissassociated with hair volumisers, the other chocolate part was chewy like toffee without being chewy like toffee, and the ganache had the buttery sensual import not seen since…well…I won’t go there again.
As I absentmindedly pecked away, trying to get the spoon to fit that not quite distance to the bottom of the choccy shot glass, in the flicker of light from the leafy mirror I imagined Pierre himself appear in front me. ‘What did you think?’ he asks. ‘Well it was nice’ … ‘like grandma’s biscuits’ we say in unison. I suggest he use some meat or fish and maybe instead of ice-cream he could have a nice rich gravy or perhaps a tasty hollandaise…it would at least make you a little less unsavoury. And as I look up to see the response to my imagined tremendous joke he has vanished and I was back to pecking at my glass under the watchful gaze of the third attendant in the cafe to watch over me.
I pay. It was around $25, not a ridiculous amount by any stretch but I then go and spend a similar amount downstairs on three macaroons, a couple of chocolates and a Pierre Herme tattoo sheet, hoping perhaps, his charms might rub off on me.
Hello. Yes I’m in Japan and my first night didn’t end up at an izakaya or shouting at people but since my friend Andrew had a nice new apartment and Danny promised he’d bring a bottle of French Sparkling Rose, and Uyen would talk loudly and keep us amused and I had a litre bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, perhaps I could dinner and I did. A stop in a Tobu Department store got us a fillet of katsuo, a slab of squid, ten crab claws, and four 50gm steaks, a sweet potato, some shiitake and a few greens. The katsuo was seared just on the outside and sliced, the squid scored and lightly cooked and then that went on a bed of lettuce and spanish onion with a dressing of soy, mirin, cider vinegar, ginger, garlic chives and sesame seeds.
The sweet potato was diced and slowly roasted with olive oil and rosemary. The asparagus and the nanohana(?) was boiled and tossed with a little seasoning. The crab claws were dipped in milk and then dredged in flour with salt pepper and togarashi and then deep fried. The wagyu steaks handily came with cubes of lard and it was cooked in that a bit close to medium than medium rare. Sauce was a jus made by sauteing spring onions and two finely chopped shiitake mushrooms in butter and then reducing some red wine and straining. To bring up some bite and for a geographical nod I grated a little fresh wasabi in there and glossed it up with a little butter. Assembled as above and it was quite lovely. The nanohana had a slight bitterness, the sweet potato was, well sweet, from slow roasting and crunchy, the steak was unspeakably tender and the crab lifted it all from being meat and three veg. The steaks sizes weren’t going to impress anybody at Sizzler but you have to wonder if we couldn’t just eat less and enjoy it more. No? Uyen has great fractal eating habits and would reduce the plate to ever decreasingly sized but equally proportioned servings which was impressive.
Dessert was perfect strawberries with a splash of balsamic and yes well it was an evening without fault. Andrew captured it better than me and he’s got a few lovely pics amongst many here, here, here, and here.
It’s a good thing, and it’s all good, and it’s a good to have friends, and its good to enjoy good things. But you know this.
Shipping out to the orient for a brief sorty. Action saw a nasty flesh wound last time, so wish me well me lovelies.