September 28, 2022

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Sculptural Japanese Parfaits Are Stacking Dessert Menus in NYC

In New York, the term “parfait” could conjure up illustrations or photos of a breakfast pot from Pret a Manger, crammed with weeping levels of yogurt, granola, and strawberries. A Japanese parfait, nevertheless — ever more popping up on NYC cafe menus — is a various development completely.

Derived from the French word for “perfect,” the parfait is now a mainstay in Japanese cafes and dining establishments. The photogenic, adaptable address showcases a very careful layering of elements such as ice product and colorful additions like fruit, chiffon cake, cornflakes, dango (a Japanese dumpling manufactured with rice flour), jelly, and product in a crystal clear, stemmed vessel.

For years, Japanese parfaits ended up a exceptional discover in NYC. Cha-An, the Japanese teahouse and sweets cafe in the East Village, claims to have been one particular of the initially to provide the parfait in the city starting up almost 20 a long time ago, according to operator Tomoko Yagi. The dessert has also begun to catch on somewhere else, spurred by enthusiastic shop proprietors and pastry cooks: Kettl has been serving a matcha parfait at its Greenpoint location because opening previous September. Orders spike just about every time a picturesque parfait sails throughout the dining space, according to pastry chef Chika Hanyu. After all, one of the causes that Kettl incorporated the parfait on its menu was to catch the attention of new prospects to its place.

Together with Hanyu’s matcha rendition at Kettl, New Yorkers can now uncover a number of iterations of the Japanese parfait in the town, from the timeless vintage at Cha-An to a sculptural address at sushi restaurant Momoya in Soho. Under, we split down some of the city’s leading Japanese parfaits and how every model is created.

A tall, clear glass is layered with pink and red-hued fillings and set on a gray marble countertop.

Cha-An’s sakura parfait is layered with strawberry ice cream, pink shiratama dango, cornflakes, and a pink, sakura-formed cookie.

The authentic

Tomoko Yagi has been serving common Japanese parfaits at her legendary Japanese cafe, Cha-An, for about 18 several years. The cafe’s edition was instrumental in popularizing the parfait in New York, Yagi states, due to the fact it was just one of the initial Japanese parfaits that she can keep in mind currently being marketed in the town. Yagi’s vision for Cha-An was to offer an oasis for Japanese sweets that she skipped as a transplant to New York more than 30 several years in the past. To replicate people nostalgic flavors, Yagi’s rule for Cha-An’s parfaits ensured they incorporated “wa,” or “Japanese” aspects within just the development. Kanten, a springy, very clear, and neutral-tasting agar jelly, traces the bottom of the dessert, though a stamped wafer adorns the top rated. (Outside the house of staying made use of in parfaits, these wafers are typically used to make monaka, a sweet made of anko, or sweetened adzuki bean paste, sandwiched concerning two of them.)

Cha-An’s parfaits modify seasonally: Presently, the shop sells a sakura parfait ($22) featuring strawberry ice product, pink shiratama dango, cornflakes, and a pink, sakura-formed cookie. But, no make a difference what, the parfaits usually involve the mandatory kanten jelly. Yagi also serves a model centered on hojicha tender serve ($14) at the counter-provider Bon Bon cafe up coming doorway.

Cha-An Teahouse, 230 E. Ninth Avenue, among Next and Third avenues, East Village

A clear, stemmed glass filled with crushed graham crackers, whipped cream, and green matcha gelato.

Kettl’s lively matcha parfait.

The whimsical

If Cha-An’s parfait is the legendary unique, pastry chef Chika Hanyu’s designs for the Japanese tea cafe Kettl display screen the opportunity for a parfait’s imagination.

While Kettl serves other desserts — which includes Mont Blanc, as properly as cookies in shades of matcha, hojicha, and sobacha — co-owner Minami Mangan desired to offer you a parfait simply because, as she puts it, it is the most joyful iteration of a dessert. Because Kettl is a tea shop, Hanyu’s emphasis is on the shop’s matcha parfait ($15) for its grassy eco-friendly tea foundation. The parfait starts off with a uniquely American layer of about crushed graham crackers topped with a pouf of whipped cream. Dark inexperienced items of matcha sponge cake observe, topped with a verdant scoop of Kettl’s matcha gelato. Kettl’s parfait also incorporates two types of Hanyu’s crispy meringue (strawberry and matcha), black tea jelly, and her chewy gyuuhi, an primarily smooth mochi, followed by a sprinkling of sobacha, or buckwheat tea. Tip: Sit at the bar to observe the parfait’s very careful design in action.

Hanyu has also created a Japanese parfait for one particular of ramen chain Ippudo’s Manhattan spots that is a more casual version of a plated dessert that she had currently designed for their menu. The strawberry parfait ($14) will involve a cherry-lemon sauce layered with vanilla ice product and matcha cookies, and is topped with crunchy strands of knafeh to imitate the look of the restaurant’s ramen.

Kettl, 70 Greenpoint Avenue, in between West and Franklin streets, Greenpoint
Ippudo 5th Avenue, 24 W. 46th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Midtown

A long stemmed glass filled with Momoya’s parfait ingredients and a miniature pitcher of orange sauce on the side.

At Momoya Soho, the pastry chef pairs her parfaits with a small pitcher of sauce so that shoppers can “ajihen,” or alter the style of the parfait, halfway by means of the dessert.

The edible sculpture

Pastry chef Norie Uematsu understood from the begin that she wanted to include a parfait on the menu at the new Soho area of sushi cafe Momoya. The dessert has lengthy been a aspect of her everyday living: She and her friends constructed their possess chocolate parfaits at childhood birthday events, and she has fond reminiscences of serving parfaits while performing at Japanese “relatives eating places,” probably greatest explained as Japan’s interpretation of a New Jersey diner.

Due to the fact Momoya Soho opened a few months ago, Uematsu has constantly bundled a seasonal parfait with different Japanese components on her dessert roster. She suggests that as much as she loves chocolate, her parfaits have so considerably been primarily based on fruit to act as a palate cleanser after a round of omakase. Momoya’s summertime parfait ($18) is a canvas of blues and greens: It contains blueberry sorbet, an ice cream produced with subtle sake kasu (a non-alcoholic by-product of sake production), yuzu sencha jelly, matcha shiratama, cheesecake spuma, vanilla crumble, and as a closing crown, an edible hydrangea designed with shiroan (white bean paste) that sits on top of a butter cookie. Uematsu pairs her parfaits with a smaller pitcher of sauce — the present flavor is apricot-lime — so that consumers can “ajihen,” or modify the taste of the parfait, midway through the dessert.

While prospects 1st turned to additional acquainted desserts at Momoya like the caramelized banana mille-feuille, they are increasingly purchasing Uematsu’s edible performs of artwork. “Parfaits are a desire dessert,” she claims.

Momoya Soho, 47 Prince Road, concerning Lafayette and Mulberry streets, Soho

Chihiro Tomioka is a New York-centered freelance author covering Japanese meals and lifestyle.