An Elegant, Decadent Patisserie

Jo McGarry
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Friday - November 17, 2006
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Patisserie La Palme D’Or store manager Glen Constantino and Chef Kei Taniguchi
Patisserie La Palme D’Or store manager Glen Constantino and
Chef Kei Taniguchi

Don’t be surprised if you walk past Patisserie La Palme D’Or the first time you go in search of its fine baked goods. You can smell the aroma of freshly baked pastries as soon as you get into the Ala Moana Center parking lot (mauka side near Macy’s), but like me, you might mistake the gorgeous patisserie for one of those designer showrooms selling outrageously priced jewelry, and just keep on walking.

The interior of La Palme D’Or has more in common with Cartier than with any bakery you’ve ever seen. Refrigerated glass jewelry cases have been adapted to protect the exquisite cakes from heat, and offer a clear view of their detailed beauty.

La Palme D’Or opened at the end of June and word is beginning to spread.

Glen Constantino is the store manager. He worked in the restaurant business before coming here, and it’s obvious that he loves the effect the store has on new customers.

“People are just amazed when they see what we have,” he says. Patisserie La Palme D’Or is the sister to a well-known French restaurant in Japan of the same name. “Because our cooking is mainly French-inspired, the pastries are traditional - but with a lighter, more Japanese influence,” Glen says.

There are gift boxes, ready for the holidays, individually packaged cakes like Madeleines, fresh fruit desserts, Christmas cakes and a chocolate gateaux that chef promises will “bring you to your knees!” Chocoholics, resist if you can.

All cakes are packed in boxes, sealed with an elegant Palme D’Or seal and chilled with a mini ice pack in each box. You can even purchase pastries and pick them up when you’ve finished shopping at Ala Moana.

Pastry chef Kai Taniguchi has been baking for more than 17 years, and began at La Palme D’Or’s flagship restaurant in Japan.

“It’s a little different baking in Hawaii,” he admits. “Everything needs to be considered - the flour is different, the eggs, the temperature.”

Nonetheless, the chef is making some of the most divine-looking pastries in town.

His favorite is the Gtteu Rooule (roll cake), a light, silky swirl of cream and custard enveloped in a sweet sponge cake. One of the most beautiful creations is the Maccha - a green tea and white chocolate cream cake atop a dark chocolate mousse crust. And while the cakes sound irresistible, their presentation makes them look almost unreal. I thought that the tiny fresh fruit cups on top of a custard base were examples of that cheerfully plastic food that the Japanese make so well to illustrate sushi bar items. “No,” says Glen, “everything’s real.”

Prices start at about $3.50-$4.50 for individual cakes, and special orders are being taken for holiday items.

If you’re burdened with a sweet tooth or know someone who is, a visit to Patisserie La Palme D’Or should leave you delirious.

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