Friday, July 30, 2010

Nouvelle Vague: Azabu Hop Chou a la Creme

The chou creme is very popular in Japan, not only in its familiar pate a chou form, an airy mound of pale brown, unsweetened pastry filled with cream, but also in the shorter, rounder, sweet and crunchy version that I've sometimes seen called "cookie" chou. At Nouvelle Vague, a hip little gelato/coffee/chou shop in Azabu Juban, it goes by the name "hop" chou, though I don't believe it has any relation to the hops used to brew beer. The inside of the pastry is almost as light as that of the classic chou, but the outside is textured and hard. Inside is a custard, probably the same concoction as the gelato, only in unfrozen form.
The pastries are baked right there on-site, as is obvious from the delicious smell of baking sugar and eggs that often wafts into the street, as well as from the giant mixers in plain view behind the service counter. The custard and gelato is also house-made, and comes in a seasonal variety of four or five flavors. Plain custard and chocolate are the constants; there are also, in season, such flavors as chestnut, sakura, and apple. Summertime means green tea, so that's one that's currently available. Rum raisin is one that I think they always have, but I've only been here twice before - so I'm not totally sure. I had never gotten it before, and I was a little disappointed - there was no rum taste at all, although the plump raisins in the rich custard were perfectly good on their own. As for the matcha, it was good, with a strong green tea flavor. I still think that plain custard is the best, though - it's somehow just what I want in a chou creme, hoppy or not.
Nouvelle Vague
Azabu-Juban 2-13-9
Minato-ku, Tokyo

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