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Feb 5, 2007 07:15 AM

Henri Charpentier Patissiere

As I wandered around the depachika level of the Takashimaya at Futako-Tamagawa, I thought I should get some madeleines for someone I know who loves them. There are several choices of patisseries there, and they all looked pretty good, until I came upon Henri Charpentier. If you had to go by appearance, Henri Charpentier’s madeleines (and financier pastries, among other items) were as perfect as they get. With most of the other patisseries, I look at their madeleines and I might imagine a perfectly good version, but when I looked at the counter at Charpentier, I was feeling a strong sense of desire for it. Not only were these completely exquisite, that perfectly golden sheen was completely alluring. I needed to have it. I think even Proust’s sense of nostalgia would have turned to desire with these. I bought a gift box of madeleines and financiers, and also bought a few for myself.

I’ve been enjoying madeleines for a few decades, and I feel I’ve been transformed since my experience with these madeleines. I mentioned in an earlier post about how the mentaiko I had in Fukuoka provided me with a transformational experience, and I felt similarly after trying the madeleines at Henri Charpentier. If there’s perfection in a soft butter cookie, this was it. At least that I’ve discovered up till now.
Luckily, for Tokyo-ites, there are Charpentier shops all over at fine department stores (in Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa as well), and several shops in the Kansai, Hyogo, and Aichi regions as well. This will make a good omiyage for my relatives in Hiroshima/Yamaguchi, next time I go there from Tokyo.

Henri Charpentier website:

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  1. I've admired their deco-style logo for years but, despite the fact there are several branches throughout Tokyo, I've never tried them.

    I'll add the madeleines to the list for my next trip!

    1. I have had a light dinner at their very interesting Ginza location, which is in a very old stone bank building from the 1920s. The doors to the bathrooms were hidden 007-like behind a bookcase and you pressed a button or something to open it. Food was simple (sandwiches, omelets) and the cakes for dessert were sublime. This place is several cuts above the normal Ginza standard.

      1 Reply
      1. Henri Charpentier is my default pastry shop. They're a little more expensive than other places, but you really do get what you pay for. They're based in Hyogo (the first shop was in Ashiya--not too far from where I live).

        I really like their macarons. I think they have a much better balance than Pierre Herme, and though I have not yet done a side-by-side taste test between HC and Chez Cima (that will have to wait until the next time I'm in Tokyo), their caramel macarons are probably my favourite macarons.

        They had a salted caramel cake this past fall that was awesome, too. And C3's tiramisu is also very very good.

        14 Replies
        1. re: prasantrin

          If ya like macarons, you should head straight to Laduree on the 2nd floor of the Ginza Mitsukoshi. Killah!

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            i passed by both but didnt get any stuff from either laduree or henri charpentier.. but i dun mind passing, they are just french sweets.. hidemi sugino is really a complete different creature..

            1. re: Lucil

              I guess that's like saying that a Lambo is just a car...

              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                Love to hear comments on these brands
                -> Pierre Herme / PIERRE MARCOLINI / Laduree / Richart / Henri Charpentier <-

                Will have only little time in Tokyo but too much to taste!

                Also -> Ginza Berry cafe / Quil Fait Bon / Mikimoto Ginza Lounge <-

                If anyone can recommend more, will be very appreciated.

                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                  i tried pierre herme macarons and sadaharu aoki macarons... i'll say they taste pretty decent, but not drastically different..

                  1. re: Lucil

                    Maybe that's the problem. When I did a macaron taste test, Sadaharu Aoki macarons were near the bottom (if not at the bottom) of the rankings. Pierre Herme macarons finished higher up, but not at the top. They have much too much filling, and are also too sweet.

                    And as I mentioned, Henri Charpentier isn't French, but Japanese. A lot of his cakes have a Japanese twist to them. But since you "passed by" without really investigating, you probably wouldn't known that (then why you bothered to comment on the shop is beyond my comprehension).

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      i did went inside the ginza branch, and as usual an erray of french cakes and patisseries were there, maybe the most varieties as compared to sadaharu aoki and pierre herme.... besides the macarons there were really expensive i thought(nearing 300 yen for each pop, maybe around the same price as pierre herme, i couldnt remember). sada's cakes also have alot of japanese twist in them, but i will classify those under french cakes as well.. hidemi's cakes are mostly mousse based instead of the usual flour base..

                      1. re: Lucil

                        HC macarons were only Y179 in Sept. They may have gone up, but if they have, I don't think they're any more than Y210 each. You must have been looking at something else. HC individual cakes are usually close to Y400, with the premium ones being closer to Y500.

                        There are many French cakes that *are* mousse based. Wouldn't that make Hidemi Sugino's cakes French-style, as well?

                        I have to ask--do you read Japanese? Because at HC, the names and descriptions of the cakes are usually only in Japanese, so if you couldn't read the descriptions, I wonder how you would have come to your conclusions. And even just looking at the HC cake display any time of year (a good number of the cakes are seasonal), you can find that 1/3-1/2 of the cakes are mousse-based.

                        Just to clarify, I'm not trying to defend HC, or make anyone love HC's products, but I find some of the things I'm reading to be based in ignorance, and I'm just asking for clarification.

                        1. re: prasantrin

                          Hey Prasantrin,

                          Got your HC macaron recommendation on another board and will definitey check them out. On my last visit and search for the perfect macaron, Pierre Herme's were my hands-down faves so I'm intrigued by the prospect of an even better creation.

                          Etiquette question. I simply bought them then headed back to my hotel to eat them but I noticed a number of young ladies purchasing them individually and walking out with them wrapped up and handheld like mini-burgers. Now I never witnessed them actually eat the macarons in public but I've always assumed doing so would be frowned upon? No? And if I don't want to wait until I'm back in my hotel room to sample them, is there any other alternative beside the obvious sit-down at the place or seeking the discretion of a bathroom stall?

                          1. re: BaronDestructo

                            I did another taste test in June and HC were still number 1 (I tested my top two caramel macaron--HC and Chez Cima against JPHevin, Lauduree, and a couple of others I can't remember). It's important to note that I only ranked caramel macarons, and somewhere I wrote that HC have the best filling:shell ratio, but the flavour is only good if you like darker caramel flavours (which can taste burnt to some).

                            And my tastes are somewhat more Japanese, so I don't particularly care for overly sweet things. That's why PH ranks relatively low on my list--they're painfully sweet compared to others.

                            About the etiquette question, I've never seen people eat them out of hand just after purchasing them (unless you count the time I saw myself in a mirror. . . ). You could probably get away with it, but you'd have to find somewhere to sit down, or at the very least, stand still while you ate them. I've done it, but I'm a furrener, so I don't really care what I do ;-).

                            1. re: prasantrin

                              Did you sample Dolloyau? How did they compare?

                              When it comes to macarons, I'm partial to pistachio but, really, anything outside of fruit-flavored is a win so far as I'm concerned.

                              1. re: BaronDestructo

                                I've tried Dalloyau, and if I remember correctly, it rated very poorly. It was coffee-flavoured, if I remember correctly. I can't remember why I didn't like it, as I tried it over a year ago, but I'm sure I posted about it here somewhere. I think it might have been very dry, and it lacked in flavour.

                                1. re: prasantrin

                                  The "madeleine" of Henri Charpentier a japanese company, based near Kobe, are lemon flavoured and are in fact great with a home made caramel flan with the little caramel burnt taste. Or even with fruits
                                  Henri Charpentier is a french chef renowned for the "crepe suzette".

                                  1. re: Ninisix

                                    The Pierre Herme'selection has the pistaccio... You will have to choose one by one. The caramel, the rose, and the chocolate ones are crazy... Even in your fongers, they will soften. The Laduree are interesting, but the rasberry is a bit too sweet.