This tempting looking box is one of the few purchases I made at Salon du Chocolat earlier this month.
Es Koyama and head patissier chocolatier Susumu Koyama were one of the highlights of Salon for me. Not only were they some of the best tasting chocolates in the entire show, but Mr Koyama even gave us a personal tasting in front of a Japanese TV film crew!
So what makes the chocolates so special? Well it’s all about the flavours. They’re both delicious and uniquely Japanese.
They’re also rather beautifully presented, with each of the five chocolates in this box sitting in its own perfectly sized bed. In terms of quantity, you don’t get a lot for 12 Euros, but this collection is purely about the experience.
The chocolates are (from right to left in the photo below) Madagascan Criollo, Fukinoto (Japanese butterbur shoots), Praliné Japonais (sesame praline), Saké Japonais (made from the solid sediment left over from sake brewing), and “Ninja” (infused with smoked cherry wood).
I started out with what should be the simplest chocolate – an unflavoured ganache made with Madagascan criollo beans. Except this is far from simple. It’s a deep, rich and fruity ganache that has a bit of a kick to it. It has a wonderfully smooth texture and a flavour that builds from sweet and fruity to intensely chocolatey.
A milk chocolate which according to the English tasting notes ‘evokes the splendour of a Japanese spring’. Not having been to Japan yet, I can’t vouch for that. Nor can I say what Japanese butterbur shoots are meant to taste like. But I can say that this milk chocolate ganache is incredibly smooth and quite sweet, but also fresh and delicate. When the chocolate has gone, you’re left with a gentle peppery finish. It’s subtle, but unlike anything I’ve had before.
A praline made with sesame seeds rather than hazelnuts! And not just any sesame seeds either. These are local golden sesame sesame seeds (kingoma) that taste amazing. I’m not usually a praline fan, but I could eat these chocolates all day. Such a shame there’s only one in the box!
I have to admit, I know nothing about the sake making process, but I’m told sake-kasu is the solid sediment left over from the brewing process. In this chocolate, the sake-kasu is split into two layers. The bottom layer is combined with caramel and white chocolate, and the other with the top layer is combined with Madagascan dark chocolate. The resulting flavour is as wonderful as it is unique. It’s soft, caramelly and mildly alcoholic in flavour. But like the other chocolates in this collection, the flavour of the filling never overpowers the chocolate.
Clearly, this is the best possible name for a Japanese chocolate, and as you might expect, it’s a bit special. Inside the Ecuadorian dark chocolate shell is a milk chocolate that’s infused with a cherry wood smoke that overwhelms the senses. This isn’t some artificial smoke flavour, but one so natural that it’s like being in the centre of a raging bonfire. A hint of sea salt just intensifies the flavour, yet as quickly as it appears, it fades. No wonder this chocolate is named for the smoke bombs Ninjas used to escape their enemies. As the smoke fades you’re left with just the deep chocolate flavour and the memory of that intense wood smoke. And then it’s gone.
And with that, this simple box of chocolates has disappeared too. It is uniquely Japanese, with a healthy dose of French style and is something you really should try if you can get your hands on it. Unfortunately, you may have to visit Japan to do so. I think it’s worth the trip.