Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bonbon Maquillage

Bonbon Maquillage
Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki, ¥4220/12-piece gift box

In an earlier post on Paris-based Japanese patissier Sadaharu Aoki, I discussed his pastries but neglected his equally artistic
bonbons maquillage, or "makeup chocolates". Aoki bonbons are fondant-filled bars infused with a strikingly idiosyncratic range of flavors: matcha, yuzu, wasabi, caramel, coffee, currant, lemon, coconut, Earl Grey, strawberry, rose, passionfruit, orange, blueberry, and raspberry. To prevent customers from reaching for rose and ending up with wasabi, the bonbons are "made up" with a slick strip of edible color--with the result that the bonbon case does look rather like a Shu Uemura eyeshadow display.

When I visited Aoki's Port Royal boutique, I spotted a few bags of bonbon seconds hanging around like stray dogs on an out-of-the-way shelf. I picked the bag with the most varied spectrum and treated myself to a scratch-and-dent tasting on the Eurostar back to London. Sadly, I found the bonbons' charm to be mostly superficial; the texture of the chocolate was fine but undistinguished, and some of the flavors reminded me of eating off a spoon that still has dish soap on it.

But according to a dozen Japanese experts, I have no idea what I'm talking about. In Japan, Valentine's Day is less an occasion for romance than an opportunity to curry favor with male co-workers and acquaintances by lavishing them with sweet treats (women get theirs a month later on "White Day"). The Nikkei's news service commissioned 12 experts to perform a cost-benefit analysis on 122 assortments of high-end chocolates (at least 8 pieces, up to
¥6000/$60). Coming in at number 5, Aoki's bonbon maquillage giftbox was reckoned highly likely to impress the boss.

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki
Port Royal
56 boulevard de Port Royal 75005 Paris

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