Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tokyo Rusk

"Handmade delicious and beautiful rusks comfort our hearts and wrap us in sweet dreams."
That's the slogan to be found printed in cute, cursive handwriting on every bag and package of individually wrapped rusks at one of the newest additions to the Azabu Juban shopping area, Tokyo Rusk. With other branches around the city, and its sleek, transparent store design, with a flat screen TV in the front window playing a silent movie about the making of rusks, it's something of a misfit in this old-fashioned neighborhood - it would be more at home in Shibuya or Ginza. But it seems to be popular, not least with the young children who come in with their parents and quickly begin sampling the broken-up rusks set out in little baskets all around the store.

I decided on Earl Grey not based on taste-testing, but because the Japanese woman shopping there at the same time as I was talking on her cell phone to a husband or mother at home, and kept repeating, "Earl Grey? Earl Grey? Anything else? Just Earl Grey?" So that's what I took home. They have little chunks of orange peel, black dots (tea?), and a visible coating of sugar, though they're not overly sweet. They're quite pleasant, and might be good dipped in a hot cup of Earl Grey, in fact.

Why are rusks so popular in Japan? (My colleagues at work recently gave me a couple of rusks to sample from the most sought-after rusk shop in Japan, Gateau Festa Harada, a place where people stand in line to buy what basically amounts to chocolate-coated melba toast.) They're crunchy, they're usually sweet but not too sweet, and they have a European sort of je-ne-sais-quoi element to them, even for Americanka me. I like them, and they're a nice change from rice crackers, though somewhat similar in sweetness and crunchiness. Maybe that's the secret of their appeal here ... or maybe that's just the result of the ones I've tried being made in Japan.

Azabu Juban 2-8-8
Minato-ku, Tokyo

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