各ジャンルに精通する個性豊かなエディターたちが、GINZA SIXをぶらぶらと

Making Connections with Delicious Surprises: The Essence of Sweets as Gifts



My Ginza wanderings focus mainly on the belowground floors of department stores and retail complexes. Today, I’ll stroll around the second belowground floor of GINZA SIX, looking for sweets specifically to give as gifts. My first stop is Origines Cacao, where I know something I’m currently interested in waits.

Origines Cacao is a specialty chocolate and pastry shop spearheaded by Japanese chocolatier pioneer Yukihiko Kawaguchi. Crisp at the first bite, then thick and rich, the shop’s bonbon chocolates fill your mouth, offering up an intoxication of vigorous, bewitching qualities of cacao. The fruit and chocolate of the Terrine Chocolat (1,000 yen; all prices listed before tax), found only at GINZA SIX, melt together in a mellow richness. Both are delicious of course, but the shop’s pastries go above and beyond. Like the chocolates, the pastries melt in your mouth and go down easy. I’m told it’s because they’re loaded with almond flour and have less wheat flour than is typical. The pastries include a new cake created for GINZA SIX’s first anniversary, something you won’t want to miss.

It’s this Cake au Citron Andalou (1,800 yen). Crushed lemons (including the peel) from Spain are blended to allow full enjoyment of both the pleasant sourness of the lemon and the pleasingly bitter aroma of the peel.

This new creation of this renowned shop is available only here. It’s a gift that would swell the heart of even sweets connoisseurs. I meet regularly with a group of people to share information on sweets, and this is what I think I’ll bring the next time we meet.

Next, I head to PHILIPPE CONTICINI, a personal favorite. It’s the boutique and café of the French master patissier who’s been called the world’s most innovative. The GINZA SIX location is his very first anywhere, although a Paris location is set to open soon. In other words, the boutique is filled with things you’ll find only in Japan, a wonderful consideration when giving a gift. I’m thinking of bringing something from here as a gift when I visit a friend of mine who loves delicious things. What I should I get?

Yes, I think I’ll go with the boutique’s signature Kouign Tatin (450 yen each). As the name should tell you, it’s an original pastry that combines the best aspects of kouign-amann and tarte tatin. The first time I tried one, the astonishing delectability snapped me wide awake. The surface of the glistening, spherical kouign-amann is crisply caramelized; the caramel reaches slowly into the interior of the cake. From the middle, the syrupy apple compote generates a subtle sourness. Bite into the crisp, then chewy dough, and it overflows with the milky flavors of cultured butter and sweet, savory caramel. In this new take on tradition, I clearly sense the hidden potency of traditional French confectionery.

There’s something else here floating in the boutique like a planet: Weekend (500 yen each). Again, a standard rectangular cake like a pound cake is presented as a sphere. The form itself is impactful. The powder and butter flavors that emerge when you bite into the springy texture are unforgettable. “I want her to try that…but I bet she’d like this as well…” Going back and forth while imagining the reaction of someone important in your life is one of the joys of choosing a gift. If you can’t decide, you could go to the counter, take a break, enjoy a parfait, and think it over.

The regular parfaits are good. But just a few days ago, my friend and I had a Haute Couture Parfait, known to those in the know, created for us. That’s what I plan to order here today. As the name suggests, it’s the luxury of luxuries: Mr. Conticini himself, who’s traveled to Japan from Paris, makes an original parfait just for you, right before your eyes, based on flavors you personally like or have fond memories of. The parfait is an improvisation, but it’s distilled into a recipe afterwards. For one whole year, it’s there to be recreated for you by Japanese patissier Takato-san. You’re the only person in a position to order the parfait made expressly for you by Mr. Conticini. The sense of distinction conferred by the Haute Couture Parfait is quite flattering.

Having Mr. Conticini make you your very own parfait isn’t cheap; it’s 18,000 yen (recreations cost 3,600 yen and include a beverage). But I’m told the waiting list fills up immediately with people who crave this experience. Mr. Conticini’s visits to Japan are announced on the boutique’s social media pages. Adults aware of the pleasures of parfaits gathering together in one place seems very Ginza, doesn’t it?

A parfait skillfully created before your eyes, in a live performance, as it were, could be likened to a sushi bar. Incidentally, the parfait for my friend and me is a never-before-seen configuration of mozzarella cheese (with salt and olive oil) on a baked confection, Craquounet (a crispy, original confection from Mr. Conticini), pudding, jasmine cream and other ingredients combined with wholly unexpected Japanese ingredients, miso, soup stock (dashi) jelly, and shiso ice cream.

Tasting this, one spies within the mild and gentle flavors the umami notes appealingly accentuated by the miso and dashi. It’s all bound together into a harmonious whole by the pudding. I’ve eaten my share of sweets on account of my job, but this is delicious in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. A chef as well, Mr. Conticini draws no lines between ingredients used for confections and those for cuisine, nor between Japan and the West. His lighthearted approach to ambrosial concoctions reminds me once again of the joy that parfaits and sweets bring, through and through.

OK, I’ve gotten off track a bit. But I’ve been thinking about gifts, too.

This time, I go with the Craquounet (box of nine; 3,000 yen), which also made an appearance in my parfait. Craquounet expresses the joy in texture at which Mr. Conticini has arrived at after many years in the pursuit of startling flavors. All eight varieties are in the box, including hazelnut and pistachio citron. Taste one; a dazzling array of textures sally forth across your palate and teeth, crunchy, thick, crispy, and more. The pendulum swing from the simple and tranquil presentation to the astonishment of placing one in your mouth is sure to be a surprise and a delight, especially for those who really appreciate fabulous sweets.

If you come to GINZA SIX, by the way, I suggest not missing out on KUGENUMA SIMIZU.

Here are seven adorable varieties of monaka (adzuki bean-jam filling sandwiched between wafers) in lucky shapes: a beckoning cat, tai (sea bream), and a four-leaf clover. The wafers and adzuki bean-jam filling are separately served; you bring them together yourself as you eat them, thus the name “Otezukuri Monaka” (Handmade Monaka). In biting into one just made in this way, I register the rich Tokachi adzuki bean jam and fragrant, crispy wafer, a contrast that’s sure to leave you longing for more. Along with the taste and appearance, there’s also the fun of making this yourself. I’m certain they’re a delight for kids, who would rarely opt for monaka as snack; in fact, my own children love them. They’re made to delight a wide range of ages, from children to seniors. The auspicious forms make them perfect for celebrations. They’re ideal gifts for people from other countries, too.

The merry Fuku box (1,500 yen) with one of each of the seven varieties, makes a wonderful, unassuming gift. For a more formal feel, they’re also available in a wooden box (set of 10; 3,000 yen), shown in the photo. Choose one or the other, based on your situation.

Having it wrapped in this great wrapping paper makes it perfect (+100 yen). Anyone receiving or giving this gift is going to feel uplifted.

This store is actually a spinoff of a French restaurant in the Shonan area. How does a French chef get involved in monaka? “The restaurant had long used seasonal Japanese ingredients,” says Madame Shimizu. “We’re always wanting to have people learn about the good things Japan traditionally offers—not just flavors, but Japan’s wonderful customs, too.” They focused on seven symbols of good fortune, and monaka made the cut. Gourds with a shape that widens toward the bottom are known to be good luck charms that ward off calamities and evil spirits. The Daruma doll is a familiar talisman of pluck and perseverance in the face of life’s vicissitudes—fall down seven times, get up eight—so each of the monaka contains a wish for the happiness of the person receiving it.

“Because a gift is something that creates a connection between two people.” A good gift in each hand, I go home with Japan’s gift-giving culture in my heart. There’s no more enriching way to wander Ginza.

Text:chico Photos:Kayoko Aoki Edit:Yuka Okada











2018.04.27 UP