Hidemi Sugino, Tokyo

We starting working on our itinerary in Tokyo a few months before our trip and were kept in suspense on whether Hidemi Sugino would open during the short weekend we have in Tokyo. The cafe’s usual rest days are on Sundays and Mondays, but with 11th Feb being Japan‘s National Foundation Day (public holiday) we were not sure if they would be operating. After keeping a close tab on their facebook updates, in late Jan we were finally assured that the shop would be open!

Having read about the long queue at the famed patisserie and the limited supply of their signature cakes, we decided to spend our morning waiting at the cafe since most of the other places are not opened yet. We took the 3rd spot when we joined the queue 1 hour before their opening time.

By the time the shop was about the open, the queue had stretched to the length of a few shophouse units. Although the wait was boring, we were occasionally entertained by Japanese men seen making a dash to join the line – we were amazed that they actually ran to join the queue, not running after a bus or train…

While doing research to recce what to order at the shop, we soon found out that the cafe has very strict rules.

  1. No photography allowed. Although we understand from other bloggers that we could use phone camera to quickly/discreetly take photos of the cakes after they were served to us at our table. We managed to do so hastily for fear that we would be stopped by the staff, pardon me for the poor photo composition…One is also not allowed to take photo of the display stand where all the cakes are lined up.
  2.  Each guest can order up to 6 pieces.
  3.  There are 2 display counters, one for cakes for eat-in only (left-side) and another for cakes for eat-in and/or takeaway. The eat-in only selection even has limited supply daily.
  4. Minimum order of 1 drink per guest for eat-in.

Being 3rd in the queue, we were quite confident that we could get our hands on the limited eat-in creations. When it was our turn to place order, we told the staff we would get 1 of each piece that was available for eat-in only, total of 7 pieces.

The most famous mousse entremet has to be Ambroisie, the signature cake by Hidemi Sugino that also won him the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie in 1991. Although the dark chocolate glaze does not look as vibrant and colourful as the other creations in the display, I was drawn to the perfect glossy mirror glaze embellished with a tiny speck of gold flake. While I wished I could take photos of the cross-section view of the cake, I could not achieve the neat clean cut using the dessert knife provided. So I decided that I should not capture pictures of the “destroyed” cake. According to the recipe, this petite cake is made of 6 components with largely chocolate and pistachio mousse. The bitterness of the dark chocolate was well-balanced with a tiny layer of raspberry jam sandwiched inside. This gem by the “master of mousse cake” was undoubtedly my favourite out of the 7 creations.

The other cake presented to me together with the Ambroisie was the La Harmonie cherry and lemon mousse. This creation was a stark contrast to the rich chocolate cake as this was fruity and citrusy. It was perfect that these 2 cakes were served together in a pair.

Another pair of mousse entremet presented was the Arabique chocolate-coffee mousse and Mariee a strawberry and pistachio mousse cake. Similar to the first duo, the serving of this pairing was also well-planned. Although Arabique also comprised of chocolate mousse, the distinct flavour came from the coffee jelly. This cake would probably top the chart as a favourite amongst local crowd as coffee jelly was a dessert which was an quintessentially Japanese invention. For guests not used to eating coffee jelly, they might find the espresso jelly too strong and bitter. Despite the intense coffee aroma, this cake was not as rich as the Ambroisie. Similarly the Mariee was not as acrid as La Harmonie due to the use of pistachio mousse as centre filling instead of lemon mousse.

The 3 non-mousse cakes were served last: Diplomate bread pudding with dried fruits, Belle Jardiniere Strawberry and Fruit Tartelette and Everest fresh cheese mousse with red fruits sauce.

After being pampered with the smooth and velvety mousse, it was refreshing to try these pieces which offered different textures. However I was so blown away with the impressive mousse entremets that these last 3 pieces were comparatively ordinary despite being equally well-executed. The tartelette appealed to me the most as it was the most conventional piece while the bread pudding and cheese mousse creations would suit folks with more acquired taste.

Although the last 3 pieces were not my cup of tea, I would certainly love to return to try the other mousse creations if I’m visiting Tokyo in future!

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