Pastry making is a form of art and an expression of creativity beyond taste. It takes an enduring dedication to a craft that demands precision, technical skill, patience and passion, and Chef Natsuko Shoji of Tokyo’s famous pâtisserie Fleurs d'été (フルール・ド・エテ), also known as été in short, is of no doubt, an outstanding young lady of her craft.
été, a French-inspired Japanese pâtisserie is the brainchild of Chef-owner of été, Natsuko-san. Before embarking on her venture to create été, she honed her culinary skills at the one-star Floriege ane Le Jeu De L'Assiette (now renamed Recte).
When été first opened its doors in July 2015 in Shibuya, Natsuko-san began serving her delightful pastries exclusively for a limited number of patrons by appointment only. Natsuko-san prepares her cakes fresh at her restaurant which opens for less than two weeks per month, serving only one group of guests (2-4 people) per business day.
In May 2017, I counted my blessings for having my reservation accepted by Natsuko-san, with a text confirmation from her. It was such an honour to be one of those few who get to try her famous fruit cakes.
As été is not open for walk-ins to the public, one will not expect a crowd at this sweet spot for gourmet pastries. Upon entering été with the ring of the doorbell, I was greeted by the vivacity of the design and cosy ambience of the restaurant, as well as the sweet and charming smile of Natsuko-san. She welcomed my partner and I into été and personally presented the cake we ordered once we were seated comfortably.
One look at her cake and I swooned. It was such a gorgeous work of art that I could hardly bring myself to take a bite of it. Comprising of three layers, the cake was skilfully crafted from the bottom to the top – a wonderfully buttery and flaky crust as the base, and 'roses' on a bed of special custard cream infused with vanilla beans from the South Pacific region.
The edible ‘roses’ are made of fresh Miyazaki mangoes, strawberries and cherries. It was shaped into nine flower blooms with finesse. Just like most chefs who take pride in the freshness of their creations, Natsuko-san reminded us again and again that we should finish the cake within two hours to savour the pastry at its best.
My partner and I finished the entire cake in less than 5 minutes. Yes, a few minutes was all it took. It was that MARVELLOUS. The two of us were also lucky enough to get a few minutes of Natsuko-san’s time.
Despite the short 5-minute conversation we had with her, I felt incredibly inspired being in her sphere. Natsuko-san is keen to keep pushing boundaries and create the most lovely and imaginative pastries around, and she welcomes her guests, including tourists from abroad like me, to taste her pastries whenever they visit Japan. And indeed, I went back for a taste of her sweet delights during my July trip this year (which I will share more about it in an upcoming post). Thank you Natsuko-san for your hospitality and mesmerising floral fruity artisan cakes! They are honestly the best ones I have had this year.