Monday, April 22, 2013

Look Amaou Strawberry Cream Parfait Chocolate

One of the things which has become clear to me since returning to the U.S. is that the market here for snack foods is dramatically different than that in Japan. One of these days, I want to write a comprehensive post about it, but the American market appears to favor enormous slabs of rich cake covered in frosting and the Japanese one prefers delicate little pieces with bits of fruit and whipped cream. A lot of people will attach some sort of character judgement to this tidbit of information, but I know that people like what they are given because they are given it, not because of some inherent personality issue.

What I mean by that is that the Japanese favor their twee little cakes with their light, fatty enhancements and fruit because that's what they've grown up with. I happen to like those, too, but that is because I have a long-standing love affair with whipped cream. Those of you with filthy minds, and I salute you, can use your febrile imaginations to make that fact far more interesting than the actual reality.

At any rate, one thing that informs the types of sweets that are produced in Japan is the backbone of their flavor preferences. This "Look" offering attempts to imitate a strawberry parfait with vanilla whipped cream. To get this effect, they offer a "vanilla whipped cream" base made with "fresh cream" (whipping cream) with strawberry sauce on top and covered in chocolate.

If you pause and pay attention while you eat these types of chocolates, you can discover whether or not they have succeeded in something that consumer level chocolates frequently do poorly and that is, offer flavor depth. When this type of attempt at sophistication succeeds, you'll get hit with a variety of flavors impacting different parts of your taste buds. You'll get the round, woody sense of vanilla, the tartness of the berry, and the slightly bitter chocolate with sugar to balance it all out and fatty richness to add heft to the experience. That's a lot to expect of one tiny little bit of chocolate, and it's not quite up to the task.

That is in no way saying that this is a failure. It actually is a very good chocolate with the chocolate dominating and the strawberry coming up behind it and mixing in a nice tart, berry flavor. The main way in which it doesn't come across is in the vanilla notes. There is a creaminess to the texture, but the amount of vanilla cream is too small to bring in much of a flavor punch. This is probably better than the alternative, and that would be too much fake vanilla flavor.

This is a very good consumer-level chocolate and if you like chocolate with berry, I'd definitely say give this a try. I don't even like strawberry chocolate and I liked this. It's available in the U.S. at Nijiya, as well as other Japanese markets.

Incidentally, the name of this confused me because I had never heard of "amaou" before and my efforts to find a translation online were not very fruitful. I turned to Facebook and asked my Japanese friends. Surprisingly, only one of them knew what it meant and that was because she is a chef and is familiar with this idea when it comes to food. She said that "a" was for "akai" or "red", "ma" was for "marui" or "round", "o" is for "ookii" or "big" and "u" was for "umai" or "tasty" (though in English, "umai" often means "savory", it has a more flexible meaning in Japanese). So, this is supposed to be made with big, round, red, tasty berries. I'm sure it was. ;-)

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