50 SHADES OF TOKYO DESSERTS | SHADE 10
When I first started doing research for my 50 Shades of Tokyo Desserts project there was one patissier whose name kept coming up as one of the best pastry chefs in Japan – Hidemi Sugino, a.k.a master of the mousse cake. Proclaimed as Pierre Hermé of Japan, Sugino-san trained in Japan and then spent a few years in France fine-tuning his craft before moving back to his homeland. It didn’t take him long to create a wave of sensation and obtain a cult status after he opened his first pastry shop in Kobe which followed with a dessert boutique in Tokyo in 2001. His numerous accolades include winning the prestigious Coupe de Monde de la Pâtisserie back in 1991 and he was also awarded the title of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef, at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 awards. Naturally, after reading all this I had to pay a visit to his patisserrie located in Kyobashi, within a walking distance from Ginza. My heart sank when I saw a long line upon arrival (there were twice as many people crammed inside the shop), although what did I expect?! It was Saturday afternoon, notoriously busy time in Tokyo. The boutique is quite small with one glass stand in the front and a little café accommodating 10 tables in the back of the room. There is a selection of sweet treats on the shelves like madeleines, and confiture. The atmosphere is very reserved and formal with hushed reverence in the air, it felt like everyone came here to pray and worship the creations of the master patissier. You could also hear occasional excited mmm and oooh coming from the café section. It is impossible not to be impressed by the whimsical and elegant creations of Hidemi Sugino which are symmetrically lined up and treated like jewels. I was uttering a silent prayer that the cake Ambroise for which he received Coupe de Monde was still available. Alas, it was long sold out as there are only 10 made each day. Although I still had an impressive repertoire of petite gateaus, tarts and sliced entremets to chose from fresh out of the bakery located just above the shop. In general, the shop has very strict rules: each customer can purchase only 6 desserts. You are allowed to eat in two and take away 4. Desserts are divided into two categories. There is limited number of 5-6 items on the left side of the display which can only be enjoyed within the shop. Hidemi Sugino is most known for his mousse cakes. The use of premium seasonal ingredients as well as very limited use of gelatin as a gelling agent result in cakes that have very delicate texture and are temperature sensitive, and thus must be consumed quickly. In order to preserve the quality of his creations, and also to ensure that his diners could be able to fully appreciate the true mastery of these pieces, take-aways for these 5-6 items are strictly prohibited. I chose to dine in and sample La Harmonie in the café and take away Cappuccino, Fruits Rouge, Sous Bois, Mysterieux and Bresilienne so that Mr. B and I could enjoy them in the comfort of our home together. Every piece I tried is absolutely sublime and masterfully harmonizes the flavor and texture. The cakes are rich in flavor that lingers on in your palate. The texture is delightfully smooth and creates that coaxing melt-in-your-mouth heaven after each bite. This velvety softness of the mousse is balanced out with the use of variety of nuts and, as was the case, boozy cherries in La Harmonie to add textural contrast. They are all meticulously embellished with their own handmade décor, ranging from fruit gelée glazes and fresh fruit to quenelles of fresh whipped cream to gold leaf details. The sweetness is subtle and unobtrusive letting the beautiful flavors of berries, caramel and chocolate to shine. I was also awed by the symmetrical structure petite gateaux with layers of mousse, sponge cake, jams, and creams. The stand-outs for both Mr. B and I were Cappuccino tart and Sous Bois, while Bresilienne tasted a tad too bitter to our taste. Overall, I would certainly put Hidemi Sugino on my top list of the best desserts in Tokyo and recommend you pay a visit, especially if you have a sweet tooth and appreciate fine pastries. The quality of the cakes in Hidemi Sugino is certainly up to par with other luxurious patisseries like Pierre Hermé and Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki. Although unlike the latter two, you can taste Hidemi Sugino’s creations only in Tokyo.
However, I cannot help but utter a few words of extreme dissatisfaction in regards to service in Hidemi Sugino. Not only did it take me over an hour to order the cakes and be finally seated at the table, but it took the wait staff another 30 minutes (!!) to serve one cake and cappuccino! At that point I was pretty annoyed and couldn’t wait to eat the cake and leave as fast as possible. This would be a huge inconvenience for those who are visiting the city on a short trip and are limited in time. They take forever to clean up the tables, seat guests and then serve them. Because of all this my visit lasted over two hours, even though eating part took only 15 minutes. I am very surprised a patisserie of this caliber would have similar issues.
Final thoughts and details:
I definitely recommend visiting Hidemi Sugino when vacationing in Tokyo, but I highly advise you to arrive slightly earlier than the opening time 11 a.m. to ensure you get the best choice of cakes and are seated fast.
Address: 3-6-17, Kyobashi 1F, Chuo, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3538 6780
Nearest Metro Station: Kyobashi or Ginza 1-Chrome
Closed on Sundays.