Until a few weeks ago, dessert fiends who wanted to taste Mont St. Clair’s famous cakes could only find them at the Japanese brand’s first overseas outpost in Seoul’s Banyan Tree Club and Spa.
Now, one can find them at two more locations in Korea.
Mont St. Clair’s second overseas boutique launched on Aug. 11 at Hyundai Department Store’s Coex branch, and the third outlet opened on Aug. 21 at the department store’s brand new Pangyo location.
“In September, a shop inside Hyundai Department Store’s Apgujeong branch is also slated to open,” said Mont St. Clair Korea’s bakery business team assistant manager Han Hye-kyoung.
With the launch of a second and third store and an impending fourth location, Korea now has more outlets than Japan, where the first and, until recently, only store opened in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka in 1998, Han said.
Until the first Korean outlet launched at the Banyan Tree Club and Spa last December, the Jiyugaoka-based flagship was Mont St. Clair’s sole shop for over a decade.
That solitary store attracted a loyal following of locals as well as tourists from around the world who came to taste owner-chef Hironobu Tsujiguchi’s creations, including his award-winning C’est La Vie cake, still Mont St. Clair’s top-selling dessert.
Before he launched Mont St. Clair, Tsujiguchi amassed eight prominent awards for his creations, including top honors for the sugar sculpture section at the world-renowned Coup du Monde de la Patisserie competition in 1997.
Tsujiguchi, often called a genius, went on to launch 11 more dessert brands in Japan.
By the time Mont St. Clair launched in Korea, it was a brand with a formidable owner-chef and an equally formidable lineup of cakes, pastries and bread.
The lineup is not simply formidable by reputation, there are around 130 varieties sold at the Banyan Tree outlet and around 100 varieties at both the COEX and Pangyo shops, making for a wide and extensive range of vibrant and toothsome sweets, pastries and breads to pick and choose from.
In addition to the famed C’est La Vie, Mont St. Clair is also known for its namesake cake, a toasted, caramelized nut-encrusted confection that marries beautifully with its buttercream-Italian meringue mocha center.
“We have a chocolate hazelnut ganache and biscuit joconde center,” Han said, explaining how the dessert achieves its various textures with a crust, a base and a center.
That lovely juxtaposition of utterly soft mousse and that element of crunch works wonderfully as well in other cakes like Mont St. Clair’s Nonette, where caramel-infused chocolate mousse and caramel-infused ganache are paired with the crisp crunch of paper-thin feuilletine flakes mixed with dark chocolate.
There is the millefeuille fraise, where an utterly thick custard — Han says the secret lies in the butter — fresh strawberries and a layer of rhubarb jam are sandwiched around thin, butter layers of puff pastry.
Bread, too, is beautifully executed, from the supple, soft and thick cushiony slices of toast bread — fashioned, Han revealed, with plenty of fresh cream sourced from Hokkaido — to the marron chocolat, a baton of bread, baguette-like in texture, filled with chestnuts and white chocolate.
This sweet snack is an exercise in balance, the meaty sweetness of the chestnuts, the even sweeter richness of the white chocolate, all balanced by the crisp-crusted nutty bread encasing the filling.
One will also find a creation fashioned from black tea that is exclusive to Korea and not available in Japan, said Han.
The Mont St. Clair Korea (www.ms-clair.co.kr) outlet in Hyundai Department Store’s COEX branch is located on the basement floor; single portion cakes cost 7,000 won to 8,000 won at the COEX shop.