Ispahan, probably the most copied cake in the world for the past few years and perhaps destined to go down in history as another ‘Gateau St Honore’, or “Opera” or “Black Forest Cake”. That is, a ‘classic’ cake that everyone has their own version of.
Ask anyone which is their favourite PH cake and the answer will be Ispahan. Marketing hype/fad or true genius? In case you are wondering about my tone, I want to clarify that PH is probably the guy who inspired me the most and through tasting and learning everything he does, he has taught so much. It is a disappointment of mine that I will probably never get a chance to work for him.
Enough crap talk, on to the cakes, which were eaten in a train station on a circular bench with a cardboard tearout ‘spoon’. Oh….how I suffer for my art! If you were the old guy next to me with the dog, I apologise for whipping out my tripod and driving Rover a bit bonkers with the cakes.
- Wild Strawberry Decoration
- Lemon Cream
- Banana and Wild Strawberry Compote
- Biscuit Joconde
- Pate Sablee
The wild strawberries were not really in season, so I have no idea where he got them from, but they did not pack much of a taste. However, the Banana and strawberry compote was surprisingly nice. Little chunks of banana that still had a bit of texture did not overpower the wild strawberry, which had lots of flavour. They worked in harmony, one after another. Really good!
The lemon cream was nice a light, stabilized with just the perfect amount of gelatin. This cake had been travelling all day and other than being knocked around, it held up perfectly. This was a really good cake that featured an unsuspecting combo of Banana and Wild Strawberry. One of the most common, plain Jane ingredients paired with one of the most luxurious. Incredible!
- Macaron Shell
- Raspberry and Lychee pieces
- Rose and White Chocolate Cream
The rose flavour was subtle and balanced, unlike the horrible copies that taste like a bottle of rose extract. The lychee pieces inside were tasteless orbs, perhaps frozen IQF lychees? Canned lychees like those we ate in Chinese restaurants growing up would have given more flavour.
The raspberries were tasteless too. This is an example of how commercialism trumps reason. Due to its popularity, customers now demand that Ispahan be sold 365 days a year when the fruits are in season only for 1/4 of it. But hey, if that brings in the money and keeps the tourists coming, it might be justifiable in my book. Not in everyone’s book of course, but if one thinks about flavour perception on a normal human tongue/brain, taste is secondary to many other things.
Of course this does not apply to nit-picking bastards like us who like to taste and taste and pass comments that are borne out of jealousy and envy! Hands up how many of you pastry chefs reading this wished you had come up with Ispahan! I can honestly say, without batting both eyelids at the same time, “Not Me!”
Money talks and bullshit walks. What will PH tell his adoring fans who travel halfway around the world only to find Ispahan off the menu? Those with artisan souls can flame me for all they want, but PH is a fine example of art meets commercialism.
Were the cakes world class? Of course, and I would love to try them again when all these fruits are in season. PH probably gets a ‘get out of jail free’ card because he is still doing some of the best cakes in the world, right up there with Hidemi Sugino.