We’ve all reveled in one of those little moments of pure vanity, where we indulge in scrutinizing and studying ourselves with relish. Like Narcissus subjugated by his reflection in the water, we are fascinated by the shiny dark chocolate icing in which our own image is reflected, darkened by a mysterious veil. Our face is printed on the somber and intriguing glaze which coats the flagship dessert of the Mandarin Oriental in Paris: we stare at it and it stares back at us. Oh! What little resistance we put up when stung by the sharp needle of desire. Looking only lasts so long – it’s now time to touch. Let us taste this dessert, soberly names the Mandarin.
This cake is composed of a crisp cocoa shortbread cookie base, topped with a dark chocolate ganache, a moist layer of cocoa cake, a 62% cocoa chocolate mousse, and a firm vanilla cream in the middle. It is glazed with a dark chocolate icing.
The Mandarin by the Mandarin Oriental Cake Shop has a diameter of 61 mm and a height of 53 mm. The specimen we purchased weights 142 grams and costs 8.00€.
A strong chocolate aroma wafts from the dessert. We scrutinize the icing: it is entirely free of scratches and air bubbles. It is perfectly smooth and shiny, slightly runny, and covers the cake in its entirety. The contrast between this mirror-like icing and the velvety texture of the surface dome produces a nice visual effect.
Less sweet than the icing, this dome is composed of a chocolate mousse, made with 62% cocoa-content chocolate. The mousse has an intense chocolate flavor, yet is free of any bitterness or acidity. It is dark in color, but remains admirably light and fluffy. We are a far cry from excessively compact or greasy chocolate mousses: this one conforms to the true meaning of the term mousse. Rarely have we come across one of such quality.
Hidden at the center of the mousse, the vanilla cream manages to be unctuous without coming off as greasy on the palate. The vanilla flavor is recognizable but not intense, and the cream leaves a slight flavor of dairy. Its dense texture contrasts markedly with the airiness of the mousse.
The moist layer of cocoa cake resting underneath the mousse brings some bite and consistency to the composition. It is kept moist by the thin dark chocolate ganache layered beneath it. This ganache further accentuates the flavor of dark chocolate, while adding a new texture and a firmness to the dessert.
Finally, we discover the shortbread cookie resting at the base of this Mandarin: it is crisp and crumbly, buttery and chocolaty. It seems to contain some finely crushed nuts – probably almonds. We are surprised by the little cake cubes found around the base: we were expecting a brittle, crumble-like texture, yet they are in fact springy and slightly dry, reminding us of a sponge cake past its prime. The cubes do not seem essential to the composition, thought they do add a nice visual effect.
This is a clearly a dessert for chocolate lovers, as chocolate dominates the whole composition. We note that while the texture of the compact vanilla cream does stand out, the same cannot be said of its flavor. Although the vanilla flavor does complement the chocolate nicely, it is distinctively overshadowed by the latter. The textures of the cake’s individual components are all exemplary, and combine into a game of textural contrasts, which echoes the visual contrast created by the mirror icing and the velvety dome. The lightness of the mousse meets the unctuousness of the cream and ganache, and all of this is held together by the moist cake layer and the crunchy cookie base. This dessert gives an overall impression of skill and precision, and delivers what we were expecting from it: a lot of chocolate, but without it becoming stifling. Apart from a vanilla flavor which we would have liked to taste more prominently, this Mandarin by the Mandarin Oriental is a success.
251 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
Open every day from 11 am to 8 pm.
Tel: +33 1 70 98 74 00