After the excesses of the festive season, time to put an end to the gastronomic debauchery. Enough is enough – let us put some order back into our plates and start the New Year by being barely reasonable. This does not, however, mean being a complete ascetic. So we shall not turn our noses up at the treats – light in sugar! – of the new pastry shop Eugène. Always less sugar: this is a clear trend in contemporary pastry making, adapted to disciplined urban palates. At Eugène’s, this mantra has been strictly put in practice: they claim to use 50% less sugar in their pastries. But do these then retain the taste and impeccable workmanship which we expect? Only a trial before Cake Justice can shed light on this affair.
This cake is composed of a twirling mound of chestnut purée vermicelli, which envelops a vanilla mousse with a tangerine and passion fruit marmalade at its heart. This mound rests on a very thin layer of almond cream inlaid with shards of roasted hazelnuts, spread over a shortcrust base filled with what appear to be a hazelnut and chestnut cream. The latter’s presence was not mentioned in the shop. A spike-shaped sheet of chocolate is used for decoration, likely as a reference to Manhattan’s skyscrapers, and thus explaining a certain similarity in appearance with the traditional Mont-Blanc dessert. Let’s remind ourselves that the pastry shop’s “50% lighter in sugar” claim only makes sense if we are given a baseline sugar content against which to compare the reduction. We therefore note the effort to reduce the quantity of sugar, without however considering the indicated percentage reliable. The reduced sugar has essentially been replaced by agave syrup.
The Manhattan by Eugène has a base diameter of 60 mm and a height of 55 mm. The specimen we purchased weights 95 grams and costs 3.80 euros.
This Manhattan smells predominantly of the chestnut and hazelnuts purée found on its surface. The knife sinks easily into the vermicelli, whose smooth melty-ness is pleasantly surprising. They are only faintly sweet and really bring forward the taste of chestnut. The vanilla inset which we discover inside the mound has the consistency of a firm mousse, is equally low in sugar, and has a discreet vanilla taste. The discreetness of the vanilla flavor in this mousse is not problematic, as the Manhattan already features several other strong flavors, all vying to express themselves. The texture of the mousse gradually blends with that of the chestnut purée. Next, it is the tangerine and passion fruit marmalade which surprises us with its balanced flavor, as it manages to make both fruits distinctively perceptible. The marmalade itself is deeply flavorsome, but its small quantity prevents it from truly invigorating the surrounding tame smoothness of the chestnut and vanilla creams.
The very thin almond cream enables a transition with the base of the cake, and the pieces of roasted hazelnut add a pleasant crunchiness. Underneath this almond cream we find a moist, granular cream, which appears to contain both hazelnuts and chestnuts. While it is difficult to identify with precision, its texture and consistency provide a perfect bridge between the creams found on top of the cake and the shortcrust base. The latter tastes nicely of butter, but lacks the crunchiness necessary to perfect the play of texture in one’s mouth. As a final comment, we note that the decorative sheet of chocolate is also lighter in sugar, which gives it a slight, not unpleasant, bitterness. The thinness of this chocolate sheet, however, makes it easily breakable when transported.
The Manhattan by Eugène surprises us by the complete range of textures it offers, as well as by the multitude of components which it manages to harmoniously incorporate, without blurring the flavors. While it is true that the marmalade’s taste is somewhat overshadowed by the other components, we are nevertheless delighted by how fully and faithfully the hazelnut and chestnut flavors come through. A slight adjustment of the marmalade’s quantity would do the trick. The shortcrust base would also gain from being a bit crunchier, so as to better contribute to the dessert’s progression of textures. The dessert as a whole is assembled with care and precision, a trait we highly appreciate. On the aesthetic front, the chocolate decoration seems justified by the name, “Manhattan”. However, it might be safer to place several thin chocolate rods in a semi-circle around the pastry, as the wide sheet currently used has difficulty staying in place and breaks easily. This dessert did indeed seem to us only mildly sweet, without this coming off as a deliberate attempt to lower the sugar content. The pleasure remains intact.
Score: 4.1/5 Excellent
11 rue Guillaume Tell, 75017 Paris, France