50 Shades of Tokyo Desserts | Shade: 30
One of the things that I admire most about Japanese culture is the ability to make everything aesthetically pleasing and visually stimulating. Whether it is an art form they create or food they plate, everything evokes a sense of beauty, stimulates the mind and awakens all five senses. This is particularly true about traditional Japanese confections which are a perfect subtle sweet complement to the bitterness of matcha tea, and is an accompaniment to any tea ceremony in Japan. There are different varieties, but I’m particularly keen on namagashi – desserts which are molded in different shapes and form to reflect the seasonal motifs. Couple of my favorite high-end tea houses that serve artisan wagashi are Kosoan, Higashiya Ginza and Toraya. If you share my enthusiasm for wagashi, you should also visit Tokyo Mise, wagashi shop located in Corredo Muromachi 3 Shopping Center in Nihonbashi (a place I like to call the Fifth Avenue of Tokyo).
Tokyo Mise is a flagship store of Tsuruya Shinobu, a confectionery founded in 1803 in the Nishijin district of Kyoto. The shop in Nihonbashi has both a sit-down tea salon and a retail space where one can pick up a couple of sweets to go. What makes Tokyo Mise stand out among other tea salons is that you can see first hand how these artisan confections are made. Two confectioners mold wagashi in front of your eyes a la minute. The sweets depict different seasonal motifs. For example, when I visited together with Em at Catch52 in May, we enjoyed a selection of Azalea-inspired creations because it was peak season for these flowers to bloom. You can order individual sets that feature one wagashi + delicious matcha tea, or do like we did and order all three sweets!
What these wagashi are made of is a combination of red bean paste covered in a multicolored, strained sweetened white bean paste. The sweets pair wonderfully with the earthy matcha tea, balancing its bitter taste.
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