Hidemi Sugino (Tokyo) – Mousse Cake Master

Hidemi Sugino

Down an anonymous alley, just above Ginza, the obsessive line up early to nab a mythical mousse cake – “the best in the world” – one man bakes as many cakes as he feels necessary for the day. He then calls it a day – the freedom of being great. The cake is not guaranteed past eleven so the necessary strategy is arriving early.

Thirty minutes before opening, I was the second person in line; fifteen deep with fifteen minutes to go; and an easy thirty people by opening time – go early – and scout the location out the day before. A five minute speech is rehearsed for the line, in Japanese, before the doors open; presumably “the rules” – including, but not obviously limited to, no photos, six per person, with some cakes only offered for the sit-down cafe. I know those rules – because I tried to break each one.

No time to lounge – Sushi Mizutani was an hour away – grab, go, and devour – which is an injustice to this genius. The line is slow and perplexing as it snakes around the small room. The shopkeepers operate on a 17th century timetable. Sushi Mizutani, twenty minutes away, was ticking closer and closer with each deliberate, and seemingly choreographed, movement involved in packaging the cakes. Greatest cakes, great sushi, little time, and smaller stomach (after the previous night’s Koju meal) – too much anxiety too early in the morning.

Hidemi Sugino

The cakes are spectacular, unlike anything I’ve had, every bit worth getting in line early. The texture is ethereal, “as light as air”, and yet, out of that nothingness, potent and vibrant flavors. The flavors are strong but well integrated, more classical than, say, the rock’n'roll stylings of a Pierre Herme. They fulfill that American stereotype of the Japanese – taking something “Western” – and perfecting it.

Eat That Yellow Snow has an obsessive post on Hidemi Sugino, the man, and a thoroughly detailed analysis of the cakes, complete with illustrations and cross-sections of their interiors – the reason we read blogs.

If Tokyo is not in your immediate plans – CaramelCorn, Chubby Hubby, Sweets & The City, & Nordjus’s beautiful blog.

- chuck

  • http://www.eastbayfoodscene.blogspot.com Angela L

    Those are beautiful, what an inspiring entry! I can feel your anticipation and almost taste the beautiful mousse cake.

  • http://nelehlovesfood.blogspot.com nelehelen

    hi chuck!

    question… can you take pictures of the cakes you ordered if you are eating inside and at your own table? or are there NO pictures inside AT ALL?

    i’m visiting japan in October and i will definitely be hitting this place up, but wanted to know how strict they were on the rules of photography.

    Thanks!

    helen

  • chuckeats

    Hi Helen, no idea – i had to be @ Sushi Mizutani 30 mins later so no time to sit, relax, & enjoy – but i would recommend sitting in the cafe. the cafe was tucked away so it should be possible to sneak a few pics

  • Joseph Mallozzi

    Alas, they don’t allow photography on the premises and even have several “no camera” signs in full display.

  • http://jeanleeblogs.wordpress.com Jean

    Wow…this looks like a must-go place when I visit Tokyo in Oct.

  • http://iitokorone.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Just had lunch in the area, and I’m pleased to pass on the helpful information that Sugino is closed Mondays and certain carefully-selected Tuesdays. I’ll need to have lunch in the area another time.

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