Pedro Ximénez is sherry made strictly from dried grapes of the Pedro Ximénez variety, and is characterized by its deep, mature sweetness and velvety smooth palate. I matched this deep sweetness and profound grape flavor with a matured ingredient from Japan, the traditional seasoning shoyu (soy sauce). Boiling shoyu to reduce the alcohol content (nikiri) takes off the sharp edges and gives it a rounded flavor, and I believed that there could be new ways of using soy sauce, with the image in my mind of French-Japanese culinary fusion. This flavor combination of “nikiri soy sauce and Pedro Ximénez” is brought to maximum fullness by the Colombian cacao blend “Sierra Nevada au lait 52%,” which has a tartness reminiscent of raisins and berries and an aged taste. With the blending of Japanese soy sauce, European Pedro Ximénez sherry, and single-origin Colombian chocolate au lait, a single piece of chocolate gains an astounding depth and richness. The décor features a drip motif that evokes soy sauce.
Phoenix Peach Blossom is single-origin oolong tea made with tea leaves from plants said to be a century old on Phoenix Mountain in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province, China. Over the long years of their lives, the plants put down a magnificent tangle of roots, drawing plentiful minerals from the soil that are said to affect the tea’s deep richness, the most important element of its flavor. After these tea leaves with such incredible potential are picked, the natural process of maturation and skilled artisans’ work of drying and heating the tea leaf combine to give it a fruity sweetness. With the intuition that “this amazing oolong tea, with its peach-like fragrance, would go perfectly with mango,” I made a two-layered concoction with mango ganache on the bottom. The flavors do indeed match splendidly, in a marriage that accentuates the peachy aroma of the tea. With a single bite, the sweet fragrance of the tea slowly expands, and the fruity scent is highlighted by the tartness of the underlying mango. The fruity aftertaste leaves an impression. A plain and simple chocolate au lait (40% cacao) lets the powerful yet delicate peach fragrance shine. This chocolate seems not to have been cooked up in the kitchen, but to have sprung whole from Mother Nature.
The décor evokes the gentle breeze of sun-kissed mango blowing through the sweet peach-like scent of oolong tea.
Geisha cherries are large fruits removed during the process of producing Geisha coffee beans, which are aged to a red-violet color and carefully sun-dried over a period of around two weeks. These marvelous ingredients feature a flesh with rich sweetness reminiscent of figs, a deep tartness recalling plums and berries, and a flower-like fragrance. I matched them with Peruvian Chanchamayo au lait 48%, which also has a floral nose and a tartness like dried plums.
The Geisha cherry ganache has a down-home sweetness that reminds one of brown sugar. To showcase its flavor structure to maximum effect, I put down a bottom layer of lychee ganache. At first bite the top layer recalls brown sugar, but it is soon filled out and deepend by the fruitiness of lychee. This seems not so much like a combination of flavors, as like an entirely new fruit the gods created. The creation is elevated to a higher level with a thin coating, between the ganache layers, of finely ground Panama Geisha Natural coffee beans, for a chocolate that bites delightfully tart and lingers with the mild richness of coffee.
For the décor, the surface evokes the deep red of a fully ripe Geisha cherry, with a wind-blown hollow signifying that the fruit has separated from the seed.
Nara-zuke are a kind of Japanese pickled daikon radish, usually having a sharp tang, of which the mirin-zuke type originating in Kyoto has a smoother, more rounded flavor. To this wonderful food, arising from processes of fermentation and maturation, I applied the Japanese cutting-edge technique of “instantaneous high-temperature, high-pressure pressing,” in which ingredients are pressed for one to three seconds at temperatures of over 200 degrees Celsius, transforming them into flake form. The main ingredients are homemade praline made with Piedmont hazelnuts, retaining their original crunchy texture, and Costa Rican single-origin 40% cacao au lait, which are given hidden, exotic taste dimensions by mixing with freeze-dried mango, made especially for the occasion, and a thin layer under the coating on the top and bottom of chocolate made by mixing fermented cacao with passion-fruit puree and then fermenting a second time. The tartness gives delicacy to the full, three-dimensional flavor balance.
The décor conveys an image of a daikon radish plucked from the earth and melting into chocolate.