Ladurée Salon de Té, Nihonbashi
After a spot of shopping in Tokyo’s Ginza district, I was lured into Ladurée to try some of the world’s most famous macaroons. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, it was a busy Sunday at Ginza Mitsukoshi and the line trickled into the department store hallway. In a rare occasion, my sneak preview—a raspberry sorbet topped with a matching macaroon—presented flavors that were as bold as its color. It was enough to convince me to return the next day. After informing me that the building would be closed that Monday, an employee serendipitously referred me to the Nihonbashi location.
To compare, the view at the Ginza Ladurée is exciting—window-side seats peer out onto chic Tokyoites at the intersection below—but the quieter and smaller Nihonbashi location offers a more intimate experience. My partner and I were seated immediately beside two lone diners whose faces said their cakes were company enough. Though on the smaller side, the restaurant was divided into three distinguishable areas—a carry out area for customers on the go, a warmly lit room dominated by violet and sage hues where we were sat, and a larger room that engulfed its guests in rich blues.
The menu is printed in French and Japanese, but the server kindly guided us to the storefront where all the desserts could easily be viewed. We mulled over the champagne and macaroon set (¥1,800 per person) and the lunch set (a lunch entrée, a cake, and beverage for around ¥3,700), but decided on the three-tier afternoon tea set (around ¥3,200 per person, available for two or more guests). The set includes a hot beverage, a cold beverage, two petite sandwiches (options include chicken, salmon, cheese, and sea urchin), two macaroons, and a cake. With cakes and beverages set at around ¥1,000 per selection, the set was an excellent deal.
I ordered a black coffee while my partner had an Earl Grey tea, and we both decided on orange juice for our cold drink. The coffee and tea were served with custom Ladurée labels and were both expectedly pleasant, but the low pulp juice was exceptionally fresh. The sandwiches were simple, a necessary break from the sugar rush we signed ourselves up for, but nothing spectacular. Our raspberry, chocolate, and pistachio macaroons were free of cracks, and the ganache fillings were packed with bursts of natural flavor. The pistachio in particular shined for us both. Instead of experimenting with new flavors, Ladurée macaroons stick to a long history of quality and tradition with an unchanged recipe from the mid-20th century. Mediocre macaroons will make you wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to these bite size confections, but Ladurée’s consistency will keep the brand strong long after the crowds have fled for the next dessert trend.
Next, we explored the cakes. We selected the best-selling Saint Honoré Rose Framboise, and the toy red Fraise Ladurée, fashioned to look like a strawberry with white seeds and a green stem. The Saint Honoré was a beautiful and ambitious cake, but between the two of us there was simply too much of it. Stacked with raspberries, pink crème Chantilly, and miniature choux, the dessert continued to fall apart like a Jenga tower no matter how delicately we approached it. My partner and I both preferred La Fraise. Don’t be fooled by its cartoon-like exterior, the interior of the cake was seriously delightful with a flavorful strawberry mousseline and subtle hints of coconut.
It’s no secret that most efforts to incorporate French cuisine and patisserie into menus outside of France usually end in flops. Additionally, expanding the same shop or brand name to new territory does not guarantee its authenticity. In fact, so much gets lost in translation. The Nihonbashi Ladurée location, however, successfully honors the famous Parisian shop in both quality and detail. So, if you can’t make it out to the Champs-Élysées, there areLadurée shops sprinkled throughout Japan that you can trust to give you the next best thing.
Address: B1F Honten Honkan, 1-4-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m.