In Prague there is a chocolate shop called Viva! which sells fine Belgian chocolates, and it’s busy. Very busy. There’s a huge range of chocolate treats to choose from, but it was a sign one cabinet that started this review.
Belgian chocolatier Dominique Persoone has created a range of – as he put it – ‘funky’ chocolates. Perfect review material for this inquisitive palate!
I limited my choice to six items, splitting my selection equally between familiar (to me at least) flavours and a some that just made me want to try them.
A Pure Criollo ganache was my first choice. Lush, citrus flavours sitting over buttery, creamy vanilla and cocoa notes. A centre that melted away leaving behind only sweet, buttery cocoa notes that lingered in a very satisfying way. An auspicious start.
The next milk chocolate had me raising my eyebrows on sight. Who knew what it might do once I tasted it?
Yep, a chocolate ganache with fried onions.
The tiniest fragments of crispy fried onions suspended in another rich, buttery ganache. At first taste only a little of the bizarre onion taste was noticeable, then the chocolate come in, flooding the mouth with the delightful buttery textures of the ganache and its soft cocoa notes. However, what happens is that the ganache evaporates like mist on a summer’s morning and you’re left with a little bunch of fried onion fragments. Weird for weird’s sake? Possibly. Certainly an unusual pairing of flavours, but I hear tell of chocolate crisps, so possibly not that weird. Definitely not one for Valentine’s Day though!
May I present number three in the series ‘trees and chocolate’…
Milk chocolate with laurel extract. I admit I had to wait a short while for this one. The fried onions were still very much in evidence and my mouth felt like I’d nipped out to a burger van mid-tasting.
This one was very sweet, with powerful evergreen top notes in the ganache. I would imagine the extra sweetness was in some part a way of countering the sharpness of laurel. When my palate did catch a ‘blast’ of the laurel, it came across as quite bitter, moreso than the Christmas Tree chocolate. On the finish it was definitely there to the very end, and I found the dying notes of the laurel weren’t as pleasant as I had hoped. Having said that, the bittrness decayed away soon enough
The Cola caught my eye because I’d already tried Cola Nut in chocolate, and so I thought it might be nice to see how this one stood up. As it turned out the taste had little to do with the natural flavour of cola nut – this one was trying to be the real thing. Sweet, tangy and somehow with a popping candy hint of fizz, this was intriguing to say the least. The juxtaposition of sweet, sticky cola and fine quality chocolate was slightly bizarre.
It’s been a good while since I tried Dark Sugars’ tobacco infused truffle, so it seemed the right thing to give this one a go. The tobacco flavour was more subtle than I’d expected but it was still in evidence. It was as soft and buttery as the other ganaches, and the tobacco flavour was more of a counterpoint to the chocolate.
You know you’ve eaten a lot of chocolate when you see a wasabe ganache and say “Ah, another wasabe chocolate”. I’d tried something similar in Belgium a year or so ago and the combination of flavours worked really well.
This one used a thin layer of bright green marzipan to contain the wasabe element, and it was the sweetness of the spice rather than its heat that came through. It put me in mind of some wasabe crackers I bought in Soho last year. There was a very slight element of the heat, but it never became chilli-hot. If you like that earthy semi-sweet flavour, this is definitely one to try.
Last one in the set was a potentially palate-cleansing milk chocolate ganache with lemongrass. The citrus notes are there as soon as it hits the tongue. Subtle and sweet, the blend of flavours was light and refreshing and the lemongrass came through beautifully, building up slowly to a summery, mousse-like peak. There’s more sweetness in this one than some of the others, but the lemon manages to cut the sweetness for a great balance. Lovely stuff.
So there you have it – some of the more eccentric flavours being produced by another noteworthy chocolatier. As I said, Viva! is a very popular place to buy chocolates in Prague, and it’s not hard to see why. I really enjoyed trying these (although the fried onion one may be perceived as being a bit much!) and if I’m ever in Prague I shall certainly make a point of visiting Viva! again.