For sweet fiends, dessert is the main act. The same holds true for those who make it.
Devotion, it appears, is a two-way dialogue, with pastry chefs and chocolatiers demonstrating single-minded dedication to their craft in the hopes that their efforts will translate to the plate, and thus, to the patron.
Sometimes there is background noise in between, where desserts and their creators are part of a larger troupe, be it at a bakery, a coffeehouse or a restaurant.
Then there are times when dessert takes center stage, when the venue’s primary focus is on the sweets. Here are two such spots.
“This space is for chocolate only.”
Owner-and-chef chocolatier Ko Eun-su summed up the essence of his small store in six words, and, he is not exaggerating. Piaf, with its cacao-friendly, climate-controlled environs, is a veritable museum of chocolate.
Everything is made from cacao. Ko has bars, chocolate-covered nuts, filled bonbons, chocolate mousse and a cold chocolate drink. Next up is a selection of macarons (or perhaps only one kind, depending on the outcome) whose star ingredient will be… chocolate.
|Piaf’s Double Vanille from left to right), Praline et Fleur de Sel, Caramel et Passion, Rocher Praline, Oeillet chocolates (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)|
The 32-year-old computer engineering major’s obsession with all things cacao began with a fortuitous visit to the famed French chocolatier Jean-Paul Hevin’s shop in Japan. Burned out from work, Ko recalled that particular moment of bliss and decided to change course, to the realm of chocolate.
After racking up know-how at Ecole Lenotre in France, Ko started out with a studio before opening Piaf in Apgujeong-dong last winter.
Piaf, in Ko’s words, specializes in a “traditional and modern meeting of French-style chocolate.”
|Piaf specializes in French-style chocolate and boasts around 16 varieties of|
filled chocolate. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Rather than focus on how much cacao goes into each bit of chocolate, Ko trains his eyes on the chocolate couvertures (professional grade chocolate that contains a high percentage of cocoa butter), blending them into and enrobing them over fillings to achieve the right balance of sweetness and flavor.
For example, in his fig and port wine chocolate he employs a total of three different couvertures (two are used in the filling), rounding out his trio with a final layer of sumptuous dark, giving an elegant and clean finish to the small treat.
“We have about 16 varieties of filled chocolates and use 14 couvertures to create them,” he said.
For his feathery-light, yet intensely chocolaty mousse, he adds banana, which goes well with the Madagascar Trinitario couverture.
“This couverture goes well with fruit,” he explained.
His discerning palate also shines through in his bars, which he calls tablets. The Republique Dominicaine bar imparts hints of lavender and sweet honey before ending with notes of dried plum and coffee.
Piaf ― 103, 647-9 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; (02) 545-0317; www.piaf.co.kr; open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily, closed Mondays; filled chocolates cost 2,200 won to 2,400 won, bars 4,500 won to 5,000 won, mousse au chocolat 4,000 won.
When Reminis Cake co-owner-and-patissier Goo Do-hoi expanded a custom-made cake business into an adjoining cafe, he knew he wanted his confections to be the center of attention.
“Cake is our main thing,” said the 29-year-old cake designer.
Goo and team put a Japanese-French spin on their desserts, attracting sweet-toothed office workers, tourists and residents to their shop-atelier in picturesque Gye-dong, near Insa-dong.
|Reminis Cake expanded into a cake cafe-atelier nearly a year-and-a-half ago in Gye-dong, near Insadong. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
|Reminis Cake’s strawberry pudding tart(left) marries strawberries with moist cream cheese.An iced Houji latte is made with charcoal-roasted green tea. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
The establishment’s strawberry pudding tart is a light and fragrant dessert option. Jelled strawberry-studded pudding infused with the light, honeysuckle aroma characteristic of the berry is embedded into moist cake.
Cream cheese, says Goo, is what gives the cake its soft texture.
Also on the menu are macarons.
Goo says they have 13 flavors, including a delectable milk macaron whose thick, ice cream-like filling gets its dairy-oomph from a blend of vanilla, white chocolate and a dash of condensed milk.
Reminis also has an extensive tea menu, including a Houji latte, which uses the charcoal-roasted green tea traditionally enjoyed as a nighttime brew in Japan for its lower caffeine content.
Reminis Cake ― 120-1 Gye-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul; (02) 3675-0406; www.reminiscake.com; open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, from 1-6 p.m. Sundays; macarons cost 1,400 won, cake 1,200 won to 6,000 won, tea and drinks 4,000 won to 6,000 won.
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)