Monday, May 11, 2009

Chocolatier Erica / Aeschbach, Shirokanedai

Erica has to win the prize for loveliest chocolateier in Shirogane. The white-and-aqua color scheme prevails inside and out, and the atmosphere is bright, clean and somehow cheerful. From the outside, surrounded by trees and stylish streets leading steeply up from Platinum Dori, it's the kind of place that you just want to go into...especially if you're on a special chocolate-oriented trip and have some time to kill. I wasn't planning to visit multiple stores, but when I saw this place, well, I just thought a few extra truffles wouldn't go amiss. The staff are very sunny and welcoming also!

The selection is a bit small and normal; milk, dark, white, cognac, cherry, brandied cherry truffles make up most of it. Not that you need anything more - I'm always going on about restaurants that have huge menus. It's like Chinese places, or Applebee's - we've got a ton of stuff in the kitchen, and we'll throw it together any way you want! It's better if the kitchen knows their strengths, or at least preferences, and aligns the menu with them. I just picked up some Noisette, Dark, and Neige (cognac) for research purposes.

You get the idea what you're in for from this picture, taken at home on my approved-for-chocolate-photography plate. Very normal truffles, at (possibly) normal prices (unless my brain is just helplessly warped by the prices of imported luxury goods in Tokyo, like every other person here). In fact, half the price of the place below. As you might guess from the appearance, the flavor leaves a bit to be desired. Honestly, I felt like they were, how can I put this delicately, not so fresh, and the the filling wasn't at all strong-tasting or complex. But nothing to be that upset about, and served up by nice people in a nice store and packaged in nice boxes (sorta Tiffany-colored, like the banquettes in the cafe section).

In other news, there's Aeschbach. This is just up the hill from Zen Cafe, and I think you'll agree that it gives off a certain Swiss vibe...mainly due to the huge red pillar with the white cross that dominates the front window. Inside it's somehow homey to me; more desk and chair and cabinet in someone's kitchen than chocolatier.

The goods are quite attractive, in what I'd like to think is an old-fashioned way. Modern chocolates appear to be going in the direction of standardized shapes with different colors to denote the filling (or the silkscreened patterns used by Richart and others). These look like the Whitman's Samplers you loved as a kid - different shapes, textures, small balls of dark chocolate decorating light chocolate squares, positively 'Napoleonic' three-banded chocolates, dipped pineapples... Looking at the web site, they seem to specialize a bit in gifts (promotional items, novelties, etc.) as opposed to being a deadly-serious chocolatier (on another note, what exactly is this novelty item they're advertising as a 'Cockchafer Beetle'?). And that makes it all the more disappointing that the individual chocolates are Y400 each! (Oddly, the Japanese site seems to have more pictures, including the cute hand-drawn one that they had laminated on the counter.)

On a final note, their '3 Musketeers' item looks delicious - sorta marshmallows, chocolate, nuts and crunchy bits, shaped into a loaf and enrobed in dark chocolate.

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