The first time I visited Sadaharu Aoki's astonishing little boutique near the Jardins du Luxembourg, a local gourmand was buying every cake in the shop. No wonder: the handsome, unassuming Aoki is the only pastry chef in Paris to put a Japanese spin on French cakes.
Trained as a pastry chef in Tokyo, he spent 12 years perfecting his technique in pastry shops throughout Europe, including the Paris chocolate specialist Couderc, before opening his pristine boutique. His vanilla millefeuille is as good as this classic pastry gets, but what sets him apart is his green tea, black sesame and red bean variations on French cakes.
Perhaps best of all is his green tea éclair, made with Matcha tea imported from Kyoto (the finest green tea, Matcha is used in the Japanese tea ceremony). The recipe wasn't hard to develop, says Aoki. "It just happened." Whether he's filling it with green tea, black sesame, chestnut or chocolate, he never forgets the secret of a perfect éclair. "The pastry is very important; it should be made entirely with butter and cooked until golden-brown. The fondant should be very shiny and the crème pâtissière very smooth." On the day the shop opened he made 15 green tea éclairs; now he sells about 40 a day to his discriminating clientele of French and foreign gourmets, as well as supplying two tea shops and two restaurants (there is nothing mass-produced about his cakes).
35, rue de Vaugirard, 6th
"What a terrific way to discover the hidden treats of Paris! Our gourmet itinerary took us to places we would never have found on our own. We felt like insiders!"
Martha Lucy, Philadelphia, PA