One ring — the Cronut — has ruled Dominique Ansel’s pastry empire since he introduced the flaky croissant-doughnut hybrid in New York City in 2013. Chef Ansel’s now ready to take on the world, opening up bakeries in Tokyo and soon London and prove that he has some other sweet tricks up his chef’s coat sleeve.
With French-influenced bread and pastries lining the shelves of Japan’s bakeries, it only made sense for Ansel to open his first overseas shop in Tokyo last summer.
Word of the Cronut-creator coming to Japan quickly spread, and the first guests started lining up as early as 9 p.m. the night before the grand opening to sample Ansel’s creations. More than 450 people were in line when the store opened that Saturday morning.
But visitors to Dominique Ansel’s Bakery (or DAB for short) were surprised when they also found roasted brown tea cream-filled “Mr. Roboto” buns, and “Tokyo Paris” cookies, a twist on the Paris Brest with matcha ganache and soft passion fruit curd — both among several exclusives for the Japanese market.
Naturally, given our sweet tooth, Marriott Traveler also had to check out Tokyo’s DAB while in town.
Must try inventions include “The DKA,” or Dominique’s Kouign Amann; the “Cookie Shot,” a warm chocolate chip cookie in the shape of a shot glass with cold vanilla milk filling the center; and our personal favorite, the “Frozen S’more,” a block of Tahitian vanilla ice cream frozen onto a wooden stick that’s covered with chocolate flakes, enrobed in honey flavored marshmallow and then torched to order.
Nearly eight months after opening in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood, cravings for Chef Ansel’s creations show no sign of waning as long lines on weekends wind out the door of the two-story shop and restaurant that adds new items to its menu every six to eight weeks.
The playfully decorated pastry shop on the first floor offers seasonal Cronuts, like February’s take on a Japanese classic: “Strawberry Daifuku”, a flaky delight layered with homemade strawberry jam and topped with azuki ganache. The store launched with a Cronut featuring Hokkaido milk honey and Yuzu lemon curd.
The shop’s second floor’s offering, Petit Park Cafe, presents not only an entirely different menu but also a different atmosphere. Meant to resemble a classy but elevated American diner (with music to match), the Petit Park Cafe serves up delicious made-to-order breakfast and lunch items such as the amazingly fluffy “Molten Omelet Souffle” and the deliciously massive “Baked Apple Pie Alaska”.
If you were eyeballing a pastry on your way to the second floor, don’t fret. Most items can be brought up to you by the wait staff for a 10% service fee, but if you want the signature Cronut you’ll have to que up downstairs yourself.
“I could’ve never imagined I would have a chance to build a store in Japan,” Chef Ansel told Marriott Traveler. “But, what was even better than I could’ve imagined is the family and team there. The chefs are not only talented but some of the most dedicated I’ve ever met. I’m excited to see all of them grow.”
Crazy for S’mores
Yet with almost 14 million citizens in Tokyo, Chef Ansel soon found that even his split menu concept couldn’t meet demand.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Chef Ansel also opened a “S’mores Pop Up” shop, just blocks from the busiest crosswalk in the world in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Only open Jan-Feb 14th, this S’mores shop offers a limited menu of exclusive lip-smacking torched-to-order treats as the “Ultimate S’more” and “Cookie S’mores” as well as take home sweets for your sweet like S’mores Cereal, S’more Macaroons and build your own S’more kits.
If that’s a lot of S’mores, there’s a reason: The Japanese market has embraced the Frozen S’more, in particular — even more than the Cronut and DKA at times.
All three of Chef Ansel’s Tokyo locations are quite a sugar-filled wonderland to behold and inspired him to consider other locations around the world.
“Japan is now a big inspiration for our entire team in New York.” Ansel says.
In addition to his two eateries in New York City — Dominique Ansel Kitchen features an eight-course dessert tasting menu — a new bakery in London will open later this year. A late summer opening is being considered.
“Growing up so close to London, I never had a chance to visit until I was much older and immediately fell in love with the blend of cultures and the spirit of the place,” he wrote. “I’m so grateful at the chance to share a little of what I do with you all.”
Some facts about the Cronut provided by Chef Ansel:
• There’s only one Cronut flavor each month. In February, it’s Milk Chocolate Cassis (in NYC).
• The Cronut should be eaten within 8 hours.
• It took two months and more than 10 recipes to create the Cronut.
• The entire process to make a Cronut takes three days.
• Want to make a Cronut at home? Buy Chef Ansel’s cookbook: Dominic Ansel: The Secret Recipes.