A bit on my whereabouts:

I’m finished at Chef Mavro’s and just started interning at the Washington Place, where I’m cooking for state functions and our Governor, Linda Lingle. The whole 40 hours a week at Mavro’s in addition to 5-8 hours of school a day put a little, er a lot, over my head. Though thanks to the understanding of the kitchen and Mavro himself, I was still able to work on a more practical schedule. I was happier with 20 hours/week, as I actually found time to do homework(!) but I know I didn’t give myself the chance to completely immerse myself in the task get a true feel for a full time job in this industry. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in such a short period of time. I have never encounter such a group of individuals who were so willing to help me learn. Their desire to share their knowledge and experience was key in my own drive to learn. I find it difficult to express such thanks to people who share knowledge, which is perhaps one of the most precious things you could seek to obtain.

I wish I could give you a log or a videotape of each day I spent in there. It is so hard to explain everything I saw from the afternoon prep to the pre-service rush and the wonderful family dinners cooked each evening. The food, the execution and the simple harmony in which all the chefs worked together amazed me. I worked with the pastry chef, a very talented and young Japanese woman. I learned something new everyday, whether it be how to properly create tight bread rolls, whisk liquid heavy cream till stiff (I wasn’t even aware I had the muscles in my arms to do that! – and now I don’t need to use an electric beater :))I was not prepared to be entrusted with the actual creation of the desserts, the plating and last minute finishes, but given such tasks you gain a rather satisfying sense of responsibility. I loved it when orders were called in for the Lilikoi Malassadas, one of Chef Mavro’s signature dishes. I would deep fry the mini brioche dough rounds we formed earlier in the afternoon the a beautiful golden brown, let them cool of just a bit a then toss in simple white sugar. A trio of these brioche malassadas goes into an order, each injected with a lilikoi curd tasting of a blissfully carefree island day. Topped with a smooth round of pineapple-haupia gelato and a softly pink hued guava sauce, it hard to imagine a more suitable fine dining approach to our local classic.

A most unexpected (though very welcomed) surprise was an opportunity to taste the entire menu on my second night. During each slow point of service throughout the evening, one of the chefs or cooks would bring over a plate showcasing a mini portion of a seasonal menu item. It was marathon fooding at its most sublime. The roasted lamb medallions, crusted with a light cepe dust and served with a confit of local Big Wave tomatoes and sauteed tabbouleh, so tender and sweet with it’s savory juices played rival to the marbled tako with ponzu sauce. The foie gras au torchon was heavenly smooth and silky, contrasting with a crisp eggplant fritter. I could not decide which I loved more – the Moscovy duckling atop a winter white yougurt pearl barley and ginger-mango jus or the round of Kobe style beef bavette finished with horseradish foam, and a gorgeous rectangle of crisp fried white polenta, a crust broken open to reveal the warm soft interior achieved under a watchful eye.

I was also given the opportunity to attend the food and wine paring for the upcoming summer menu. I’m not a wine drinker to say the least and felt very intimidated during that session. Each new menu item was paired with five types of wine, and after tasting, each individual was to note down the top three. That was a LOT of wine. I only managed to take a sip of each and still left feeling kind of uuuuuurg…like that. But I did enjoy the dishes! I’ll vouch for the new dessert, a perfect summer treat. In simple terms, it’s lychee, three ways. It such a sight for the eyes, a soft round of lychee sorbet, moving down the dish, a lychee infused rice pudding floating on a smear of tart and sweet grape reduction and to end, a lychee-marjoram kanten.

There was much more to my experience than what I have written, though I feel as if I could write for days and still never finish, and never do what I’ve learned justice. Working at Chef Mavro’s was very very different from Alan Wong’s, to say the least. Though both are touted as Hawaii’s best restaurants, not only is their approach towards cuisine highly different, everything from the physical layout of the kitchen to the music played in the kitchen prior to service, personalities of the cooks and chef and even the clientele that frequent these restaurants differ greatly. To compare my experience at the two restaurants in a short sentence, I think it’s fair to say that I certainly learned more at Mavro’s but felt more welcomed at Alan Wong’s. Each day at Mavro’s was a crash course in learning learning and more learning. It was terribly exciting but more often that not, I would feel awkward and out of place in their kitchen, like a burden rather than an asset. Despite all that, I took away an amazingly great deal knowledge that I truly owe them thanks to. In comparison, at Alan Wong, I definitely learned, but at a much slower pace. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I was there for three (as opposed to one at Mavro’s) month, so everything was not quickly crammed in. The staff at Alan Wong’s is so very local. And I think I like it that way. The same goal of quality food and service are accomplished at both restaurants, but with different approaches. There’s a more laid back, family, working-as-a-team-together feel at Alan Wong’s, but a more sophisticated, almost New York chic mentality at Mavro’s. Clearly, as judge by the great success of both restaurants, coming from either end works – it’s all a matter of personal preference.

I leave with a kitchen-full of gained knowledge (and stronger arms J), but there’s so much to learn that I always feel behind. It’s like running up to catch up to this guy and once you get there you find out there’s another guy ahead of that one! So you keep going and going, and you’re all out of breath but there’s this and that to learn, a technique you’ve never head of and chef you want to meet, the dish you need to try. And somewhere along, you realize that your goal shouldn’t be the destination, whether that be opening your own place or becoming a chef, but the journey itself – the whole process of learning. Oh, hehe. That was cliché. But SO true.

I can make a few conclusions:

1. I could not imagine myself owning or working in a restaurant as an actual career.
2. But I do want to own a patisserie. No full scale restaurant, but yes to dessert!
3. I actually enjoy eating food more than cooking and would be more than content working around (as opposed to with) food. What kind of work would that include? Ay, I’m not sure…journalism, design, management? There are many (perhaps more than necessary) “things” I am unsure of. But I do know whatever I do must be in the sphere of culinary goodness. And hopefully that’s enough for now.

12th Avenue Grill

Finally! Since opening nearly two years ago, I always intended to visit 12th Ave Grill but despite living just 5 minutes away, never managed to make it until tonight. Too many place to eat and never enough time! I came with my family on a pretty calm Friday night. Reservations were for six pm and we were quickly seated as soon as we walked in.

Occupying the location of the old Mongolian BBQ, I never expected 12th Ave to be such a success. But lo and behold, they’ve made the pages of Food & Wine and other national magazines. Everywhere you turn, chowhounds are whispering with a blend of longingness and jealousy about their sinfully addicting macaroni & cheese. Yay for the success of local restaurateurs!

If the bread basket gives any indication of a restaurant’s culinary aptitude, then we were definitely at the right place. A basket bearing three types of warm starchy goodness and a little dish of creamed butter just begged to be torn apart. It was hard to pick a favorite of the trio as the soft tomato loaf sweetly studded with bits of dried tomatoes and torn basil was just as inviting as the crusty browned baguette. Buried at the bottom was a bread similar to the baguette, only a tad sweeter with toasted walnuts. Needless to say, we polished off the basket rather quickly!

This was my main purpose for visiting. The Baked Macaroni & Cheese ($5.95). That much for a little ramekin of mac & cheese you say? Oh yes. And I didn’t feel gypped at all. I have a secret place at the bottom of my heart that holds a cultivated love for Easy Mac (shhh!) But take the “crude” and classy it up and I’ll love that just as much. A deep ramekin holding perfectly cooked macaroni mixed with a creamy blend of their house smoked parmesan and spices was topped by an oh so buttery crisp toss of savory bread crumbs. Oh dear it was good. Soo good that my sister demanded another for herself!

Easy to make at home, but how many people actually take the time to fry up a couple of mozzarella stuffed raviolis for themselves? That’s what restaurants are for! The Crispy Fried Ravioli ($8.95) featured a duo of round ravioli stuffed with fresh mozzarella, basil and proscuitto. Deep fried then placed on a bed of arugula and fresh tomato coulis, I enjoyed it very much but felt that it was a bit too heavy, especially after the Macaroni & Cheese. I was disappointed by the coulis which didn’t taste much different from plain old tomato sauce, but it made a great dipping companion to the baguettes.

One of our “lighter” dishes, the Spinach Salad ($9.95) arrived in a deep bowl filled with healthy green baby spinach with shaved cremini mushrooms and chopped tomatoes. The salad was toss in a warm bacon vinaigrette and finished with two rounds of crispy fried goat cheese. Man, they work their cheeses here – 3 for 3 so far! A simple salad done well. I though the combo of goat cheese with bacon worked together well. Oh heck, how could you go wrong with fried cheese and fried pork at the same time.

The Cinnamon Braised Shortribs ($19.95), according to me were, holymoley good. The cinnamon flavoring was very subtle but key to the smokey sweet taste. It reminds me of the role the spice places in pho – no immediately apparent but crucial to the success of the dish. The ribs were so tender there was no need to bother with a knife. A nudge of a fork and the meat fell apart in the most delicate manner. Supporting the ribs was a base of horseradish mashed potatoes with roast garlic aioli and broccolini. Some potatoes were left in chunks, a plus in my books and as the sole flavoring agent, the horseradish was very strong. Perfect if you like that distinct flavor, which I do, but overkill for my sister.

My dad had the Kim Chee Steak ($18.95). A skirt steak marinated in their housemade kim chee sauce, char grilled to rare (per my dad’s request) was served on steamed rice along with sautéed bell peppers and sweet onions. I have no idea how this dish tasted. My dad ate it with such gusto and enthusiasm that I figured I’ll come back another time and have it for myself. Conclusion? It must have been good!

Coming up right behind the macaroni & cheese, the number two reason for coming was to try the BREEEAD PUDDING. But guess what? It was taken off the menu upon the arrival of the new pastry chef Sami C. I was sad. No bread pudding? What? How can? How upset was I? Almost to the point of ordering NO dessert. Gasp. However the special of the night was a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp ($6.95) and since rhubarb is rare on the dessert (or any) menu in Hawaii, it was pretty hard to turn down. We added a scoop vanilla ice cream ($1.50), but I think any crisp or crumble should automatically come with ice cream! It was fine, but far from extraordinary. The crisp topping was my favorite part, buttery and rich, it also managed to be light with a delicate crunch at the same time. The actual fruit beneath was beyond sugary sweet – I love rhubarb fruit for it’s tart sweetness, but there was so much sugar in here that the unique flavor of the fruit was nearly lost. I honestly don’t get it. Am I the only person in Hawaii not absolutely smitten with Sami C.’s creations, from her work at Grand Cafe, Nicos, Sam Choy’s and now 12th Ave? Maybe our tastebuds don’t agree. But one thing’s for sure. I miss Lisa Siu and her bread pudding! What’s that little candle sticking up from the ice cream? Why, it was my birthday :)

Service was excellent and everything went smoothly without a hitch. Our water glasses were constantly refilled and there’s a certain hum, energy or vibe to the restaurant that keeps you at once energetic and relaxed. It’s a small place, seating around 60 people. And with an open kitchen and casual yet classy feel, you’d feel equally welcome in heels and black dress or short and slippers. American bistros like this come a dime a dozen in NYC, but 12th Ave Grill is definitely a one of a kind in Hawaii.

12th Avenue Grill
1145C 12th Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-9469

We drove down King Street desperately searching for parking on a busy Friday night. There was no indication as to whether or not the restaurant offered parking, so we turned into a back lot hoping to steal a spot, but it too was also full. With a growling stomach and eager appetite, I told my dad to hold on while I ran into the restaurant to ask where we could park. A young waiter said that the back lot belonged to Spices but that it was likely full. No kidding. He put down his dishes and walk out with me, gave King Street a look up and down and proclaimed, “there’s one parking there. Across the street. You see it? It’s the last one!” Getting ready to move in action, I started to sprint back to my parent’s car to tell them to busssy on over to the spot before it was taken. What the waiter did next surprised me. He whipped on a wicked grin and said, “Stay here. I stand in the spot and hold it for you!” Chee! When was the last time a waiter offered to stand in and hold down a parking spot for you? This was one nice guy! So we got our spot and our whole family was embarrassingly thankful. The night was off to an optimistic start.

We were brought menus and water promptly after being seated. Mint water anyone? A simple yet memorable touch. Not enough restaurants, especially Asian ones, take the time to add such a thoughtful bit to the dining experience.

We started with an appetizer of Spices’ Shrimp ($10.95). Holy crap this was good. 6 large pieces of succulent sweet shrimp was wrapped in a savory paste of pork and cha lua along with various spices. Battered in a delicate panko like crust and deep fried till the perfect shade of crispy brown gold, it was a quite a symphony for the taste buds. The welcoming crunch of the crust revealing a fist of juicy meats and the a bite of tender sweet shrimp in all it’s simplicity. You would have wanted me to save you a piece. J

The Spicy Papaya Salad ($8.95) was fine – nothing exceptional or particularly bad. My mom makes this dish pretty often and I like her version better due to personal spicy-sweet balances as well as having the papaya more thinly sliced. As with all the dishes, we were given a choice of “spice” level and choose “Spices Spice,” the hottest level for the salad. We were warned by the waiter that it was VERY spicy and while it was indeed quite hot, I was anticipating more considering the exaggerated expressions he used to describe “spicy.” Like THAT (boggled eyes, mouth in a big “O”) SPICY!”

These next three entrees were all good except for a single element in each that brought it down from above average to the “almost-oh-no!” level. An order of Beef Eggplant with garlic, onion and holy basil stir fry ($12.95) came sopping in a salty thin broth. The eggplant was fantastic, cooked tender while still remaining a bit of firmness and just the right bite. Plenty of basil and some green onions were appropriate compliments. However the beef. It was seriously not beef. More like think chewy brooown stuff. Very thinly cut. Hard. Chewy Chewy. And just not good. I should have opted to have tofu in place of the beef/mystery meat.

They do an awesome job with eggplant here as evidenced by both the stir fry and the Green Curry with Pork, eggplant, bell peppers, garlic (13.95). Served in a white boat dish the curry was a promising mellow green color. Plenty of eggplant along with sweet cuts of vibrant red bell pepper, crunchy and sweet were delicious with the sticky rice ($4.00).

But the curry itself? Salt! The curry flavor was there but someone must have accidentally knocked in a quarter container or Morton’s. You couldn’t place any more than a dab of curry (which was very liquidy) on a scoop of rice for fear of salt overdose. Talk about killing taste buds. I ended up picking out the veggies and wiping them along the side of the bowl before eating it with the rice. Such laborious curry!

$11.95 is the most I’ve paid for Chicken Pad Thai and I don’t think I’ll do it again. The initial chopstick twists were good, if nothing special. Presentation, like most things in the restaurant were classy but not overdone. I was content. For the moment. But then my dad pointed out the excessive sweetness of the noodles…and then the greasiness. Just goes to show you how sharp my taste buds are! (Musta been the salt…) The only thing I initially picked up on was the slightly undercooked noodles. We took the leftovers home and were slightly mortified upon seeing a giant puddle of oil that formed on the bottom of the Styrofoam container. You and your wallet are better off sticking to Bangkok Chef on Nu’uanu for Pad Thai.

My main reason for paying Spices a visit was for their ice cream. It’s not quality, much less quantity that the ice cream is known for, but the unusual flavor offerings. Flavors vary from Green Apple Curry to Durian with about six varieties offered each night. We ordered the Sampler ($7.50) which included a choice of three flavors. Picking the most interesting of the group, we were presented a long rectangular dish with three of the TINIEST scoops of ice cream I’ve ever seen in my life. Ha. And my mom was worried three scoops was over doing it. But seriously man. These were in the range of two bite scoops! Ice cream for Barbies! After recovering from scoop size shock, I started “sampling.” From left to right, the Chili Pepper – Lemongrass tasting of spicy cold cream was my least favorite. Perhaps a bare hint of sweetness or stronger lemongrass flavor would have helped. The Pandan with a lovely soft green hue carried a calm mellow vanilla flavor with that distinct Pandan essence that I cannot quite describe but know it when I taste it! (Pandan also has that smell. Just that. Oh man, I’m no good at explaining Pandan. You’ll have to buy the leave or a bottle of extract/paste. The smell itself is addictive!) The best of the trio was Peanut. Thick with tiny crumbles of toasty nuts the peanuttiness flavor was definitely there and very strong. The texture of the ice creams were inconsistent as I found a couple bits of plain frozen cream in the pandan and a chewy bit (lemongrass, I hoping?) in the Chili Pepper-Lemongrass. Though quality was a letdown, kudos to them for introducing Hawaii to more “exotic” ice cream flavors. Local is good, but a little variation never hurt!

Overall? Nearly every dish can be accounted for as “Goood, BUT…!” There was just ONE thing that ruined it. Like too much salt in the Curry and overdoing the oil with Pad Thai. If they had watched each dish a tad closer, I’m sure our meal would have been much more satisfying. Though not in a rush to return, perhaps I’ll give it a visit on a slow weekday, where hopefully in addition to attentive service and helpful waiters, the food too, will also be given deserving attention.

2671 D S. King St.
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-2679

Bread Pudding X 2

Most people go through life without ever having to get a root canal, but considering the amount and variety of sweets I consume, I’m thankful I’ve only had one! Hehe. But seriously. Getting them fixed is mighty expensive – we’re talking a dozen or so tasting menus at Alan Wongs! Back to desserts. I know I use the word “favorite” quite often, but this time it’s FOR REAL. And how do we know it’s FOR REAL. Because I’ve said it before. Bread Pudding is my favorite dessert. In the world. Thats it. Nothing ranks high than bread pudding in my book. Preferably warm, I’ll take it plain and simple or lavishly overdone, rich with toasty walnuts, dark chocolate chunks and bananas. With or without creme anglaise, a drizzle of rum I welcome bread pudding in
any form. No discrimination, provided it’s good for what it is.

I mentioned a while back that my goal was to try all the bread puddings on Oahu. Making true on my promise, here’s a couple for the record. This first one is from Nico’s at Pier 38. I had it a few months ago but never got around to posting the review.

You can probably call it the bread pudding that failed me. I’ve had many good puddings, a few excellent ones and a bunch in between. But this was the first that left me queasy. It was a sad surprise and shock since I had heard much about Sami C’s wonderful pastries. Having baked at the beloved Grand Cafe and now at Sam Choy’s and 12th Ave Grill, I had high expectations while she was working at Nico’s. Appearance wise, her pudding is a simple and elegant creation. At a towering hight with a slighty carmelized crust and a side of anglaise I was eager to dig in. Looking closely I could see that the pudding was made up many different breads. Contrasting shades and textures revealed a poppy seed, banana, chocolate and strawberry loaf. Though not offered, the staff was happy to heat the up the pudding. I poured a bit of anglaise over the corner and forked up a bite. ARGH! Like SUGAR! Like BAKED MUFFIN SUGAR. Crap. This was not BREAD pudding. It was MUFFIN pudding.

Most muffins are sweet to begin with and this last thing you should do in soak them in more sugar and fat. Croissant, broiche and challah puddings I love and understand – buttery but not sugar-azied, they have a rightful place in bread puddings. But muffins? I felt gypped. The texture wasn’t custardy enough, I felt like she had added just enough custard to bind the chunks of muffins together and then stuck it in the oven. And when I say chunks, I’m not kidding. I was able to pull out whole big pieces of different flavored muffins. See how it wasn’t eaten like “normal” bread pudding. I was not happy. No, more like sad. I expected too much. However, I will not cross Sami’s name off my mental dessert books because I have heard too many drooling reviews from friends who have tasted her other desserts. Perhaps I will shimmy on over to 12th Ave Grill later this week for her newer version of bread pudding. Never lose hope!

From the Covenant Cafe, the Chocolate Bread Pudding ($3.25) can be more accurately named as the Chocolate Pudding Bread Pudding. It’s gooood. But it’s sweeeet. A very moist, custardy pudding, it was hard make out the “bread” element in the pudding save for a few chocolate pudding soaked cubes. After ordering it from the counter, the lady assured me that it would be heated up before being sent to the table. I guess they forgot! Nonetheless, while this is far from being my favorite, the cold chocolatly soft custard grew on me with each bite. It was like I was eating chocolate pudding with texture and slight firmness that easily gave way as soon as a spoonful magically found it’s was into my mouth. Finished with a buttery cake crumb coating and a whoof of cream, the two elements were simple afterthoughts that managed to complement and provide contrast to the intese cocoa flavors. It soft, chocolatey and glorious all at once. When is cool sweet comfort ever refused?

(Note: Covenant Cafe offers simple soups and sandwiches in addition to dessert. Do not miss out on the soups! They have a special each day and I’ve yet to try one I don’t like. The sandwiches are of the ordinary sort but I imagine a bowl of warm soup – think tomato basil or pumpkin bisque with giant garlic croutons, followed by a square of their Chocolate or Apple Cinnamon (sold out by the time I got there at noon) Bread Pudding would make for a most divine lunch.)

Nico’s at Pier 38
1133 N. Nimitz HWY
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 540-1377

Covenant Books and Coffee
1142 12th Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
(808) 732-4600

Many years ago in the summer of 2000, I took on my first “real” job. I was officially a REAL employee. It seems silly now, but I was beyond ecstatic to be employed as the Bakery Counter Girl at Ala Moana’s Saint Germain. I loved everything about the job – until I actually began working. You see, Saint Germain is hands down my favorite bakery in Hawaii. Even with nine locations around Oahu, their Japanese-French pastries and sweets are consistently right on par and delicious. No one in Hawaii does a better baguette. I imagined days surrounded by the glorious scent of warm sweet potato turnovers, orange chiffons and marron croissants. Afternoons would be spent offering recommendations on the dozens of petite cakes and mousses to happy customers. Everything would be so perfect.

And then of course, comes reality. The manager was a bitch. Ooops. A very mean person. She still works there if you’re interested. The skinny mean one with blue wire rimmed glasses. She must have harbored some bitter resentment towards something or someone because I never saw her smile. She took great pleasure in ordering poor minimum wage employees around, “Dust this! Pick up that crap! Clean my shoes!”…exaggerating a bit on the last one, but you get the idea. What drove me absolutely nuts was her OBSESSION with welcoming customers into the store. It started with simple instructions to say “Welcome to Saint Germain” when people walked in. That’s perfectly acceptable and I was quite willing to “welcome” people. But then, she started getting nitpicky. Everyday at work she, let’s call her Regina, would find something, anything wrong with the way I greeted people. First it was that I didn’t great loud enough. And then it was cause I needed to smile bigger. Then look the customer in the eye. Then she made me PRACTICE GREETING PEOPLE IN FRONT OF HER. As in practice saying, “WELCOME TO SAINT GERMAIN!” over and over again. It was ridiculous. I think we scared away more customers than we welcomed. Needless to say, I quit. And that was my rather brief stint in the real working world.

Though as a whole, the job wasn’t incredibly painful, it was just a bitter mean manager that drove me crazy. There were definitely little perks that kept a pastry hungry high schooler happy, like free pastries. And boy, did I take advantage of that. I paid my dues though, with an additional five pounds of body fat. The bakers were especially nice to me (probably because I enjoyed spending breaks doing the garnishes on the savory rolls) and would often keep aside baguettes for me to take home after my shift. Despite all that, I never want to be employed by Saint Germain for the rest of my life. But I still love their pastries.

My parents recently hosted a small barbeque party for some close friends. Dessert was an assortment of single serving side pastries from Saint Germain. No, I did not eat all six varieties alone! But I did have a good portion of each, hehe. Let’s start with the Strawberry Shortcake.

This is the Saint Germain classic. We had this for my first birthday cake. And second. And third. All the way until 10th grade (when JJ came out with his chocolate pyramid – but we’ll get into that on another post). The lightly sweetened cake is neither dense nor fluffy but floats somewhere between in a lovely cloud light world of heavenly butteryness. It is quite simple, layered with sweetened whipped cream and strawberries. With the right ingredients, technique and a touch of that Japanese flair for making European desserts lighter and more refreshing to the palate, the end result is sublime, a mellow, almost calming dessert. Soft cream studded with strawberries halves resting on a bed of pillowly, chiffon like cake. It’s no wonder I (and my mom, dad and sister!) have had the same birthday cake every year.

You’re looking at the Strawberry Mousse. A thin base layer of white cake is topped with a tower of airy, foam like mousse with bit of strawberries floating about. A finish of ruby red gelatin holds up an assortment of seasonal fruit. This was my least favorite, mainly because I found the gelatin cloying sweet, but the mousse itself had a light whimsical feel in my mouth. I tend to go for thicker mousses just because I never feel quite satisfied after finishing something that airy/foamy for dessert. I like light but also some substance. And creamy things. Oooh yeah.

It’s called Passion Fruit Mousse, but should be more appropriately named Tangerine Mousse. Similar in structure to the Strawberry version, I enjoyed this one more because the tart citrusy flavor stood out well and cut down the sweetness. The cool gelatin layer was light and lemony, as if you had a bite of soft lemon ice.

The Mango Cheesecake provides a fine example on the Japanese take on cheesecake. Everything is just a touch lighter and not nearly as sweet, both positive things in my book. A cake based with a fluffy/cakier version of cheesecake marked by tiny cubes of mango, it was pleasing but I think I’d rather head back to Panya when I’m craving Japanese cheesecake.

A classic tart crust filled with a thin vanilla cookie layer and a jiggly custard mountain. Lo and behold, it is the Kiwi Custard. The only element that make this dessert “Kiwi” are the four thin slices of the fruit surrounding the custard. The smooth milky custard with a slightly caramelized surface was perfect on it’s own but I felt it didn’t match at all with the tart shell and cookie filling. Maybe it’s just me, but when you want something to blend with a crisp shell and flaky cookie, you’d expect a soft custard that would complement the textures, not a firm, gelatin-like custard that stands up well enough on it’s own.

I’m afraid I didn’t save the best for last (cause that went first!) but I didn’t save second best for last! I looove dark chocolate. The more dark, more bitter, the more intense the flavor, the happier I am. :) And this baby delivers. A deep rich creamy sin of thick, regretfully, almost too sweet, chocolate mousse that seems to go again all conventions of Japanese desserts (it’s the evil baby we love!), the mousse is quite intense and a bite or two should be enough. But when the devil comes calling, turn away or go all out. And go all out I did, devouring this creation blanketed in a satiny smooth dark cocoa shell. Soft creamy, melty dark chocolate. Whipped, ganache – it all comes together in your mouth for a mingle and party in all forms chocolate.

Yes Saint Germain is delicious. Though I only featured cakes/desserts here, my main purchases include their baguettes, epis, ham rolls, ensemadas, marron croissants, chocolate amades, raisin walnut rolls, curry pan…and ooh boy, EVERYTHING! It’s all good, if not exceptional. Just steer clear of the muffins, which always taste like they tripled the sugar then gave it a sugar water bath after baking. And in the end, it goes to prove that though Regina drove me nearly insane (WELCOOOOOME TO SAAAAINT GEEERMAIIIN!!!), she did not kill my love for pastries and the bakery world. Cause if she did, ho man, that would make me angry! :)