February 22, 2005
the Very Best and "Better-Than-in-France Croissants aux Amandes You Can Get in Tokyo": 1st Annual Independent Food Festival
Every time you find a new shop/restaurant and step into it, there might be something that you would almost automatically try first, either to size up the shop and compare it against your "reference", or simply because it is something you just have to come back to. In my case, it would be green curry if that is a Thai restaurant, pizza margherita at a pizza shop, and croissants aux amandes or almond croissants at a French bakery. And in that last case, my long-standing reference croissants aux amandes are those from a Tokyo bakery called Aux Bacchanales. I have yet to find a better one than theirs, and believe me, I have tried a lot of places.
I can't remember when it was I tried their croissants aux amandes first time, but it must be ten years ago or so. They used to have a cafe/bar/restaurant/bakery/pastry shop at a busy corner of Harajuku, Tokyo, where I would go and drop by now and then to have a cup of good coffee or hot chocolate, or to buy good bread (and I was really sad when they closed the Harajuku shop because their building was to be reconstructed or something). Theirs wasn't the first almond croissant that I have ever had, but it was so outstanding I can't remember any I had tried before that time.
Croissants aux amandes would typically be a "recycled" product made using day-old croissants by filling them with almond cream and re-baking in the oven. So it used to be something you could only get when they do have some unsolds from the day before at the shop. Nowadays in some shop where almond croissants are a big thing, they might not "wait" for one day but just be baking some extra croissants for the almond croissants, I guess.
Like I have said, Aux Bacchanales' have become my "reference" croissants aux amandes over years, after eating countless almond croissants here and there, in Tokyo and in Paris and elsewhere - frankly, almost at every bakery where I found one. Good croissants aux amandes, in my opinion, have to be made using good croissants and almond cream as a matter of course, but they should also be re-baked in a perfect way; most almond croissants I have had are too often underbaked, making them rather soggy and shabby. They also tend to be too sweet and/or have overpowering amount of almond flavoring. Maybe that is the way they are supposed to be since so many of them are like that, but that's not the way I like them to be.
On that account, what I love the most about croissants aux amandes from Aux Bacchanales are that they have the generous amount of almond cream inside and on top of the croissants, and that they are well-baked so the whole thing is very crisp and tastes fresh, not to speak of the quality of croissant itself. I have tried and to some extent liked almond croissants from other bakeries including Poujauran and Maison Kayser and even Paul of Paris, but I would always come back to the same conclusion: I like Aux Bacchanales' better. They might not be the prettiest-looking croissants aux amandes in the world or even in Tokyo, but they are one of the tastiest, and definitely the very best I have ever had, and I love the most.
So here the 2005 Independent Food Festival Awards / Better-than-in-France Croissants aux Amandes You Can Get in Tokyo award goes to croissants aux amandes by Aux Bacchanales!
(And you are always welcome to tip me off about excellent croissants aux amandes that you know!)
*This year marks the very first Independent Food Festival Awards event, presented by TasteEverything. I am honored to be among the selected 30 jury members to create and give their own award, and have had this opportunity to recognize something I love and introduce it to the world. Go check out all the other awards if you haven't done so yet. Much thanks go to Hillel and his fellows who have made this possible... and my special thanks to Namiko, a long-time friend of mine in Japan who has helped me to get the stuff I needed to write this.
Aux Bacchanales Akasaka
Ark Hills Building, 2nd Floor
1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Tel. 03-3582-2225 / Fax. 03-3582-8844 (Country code: 81)
There are some other locations in Tokyo, as well as in Yokohama, Hakata, and Kyoto.
They also have a selection of excellent bread/sandwiches and pastries.
posted by chika at: 2/22/2005 05:01:00 AM