Japan is obsessed with French pastry. Yes, I know everyone who has access to French pastry is obsessed with it, but in Tokyo they've taken it another level. When a patissier becomes sufficiently famous in Paris, they open a shop in Tokyo; the department store food halls feature Pierre Herme, Henri Charpentier, and Sadaharu Aoki, who was born in Tokyo but became famous for his Japanese-influenced pastries in Paris before opening shops in his hometown. And don't forget the famous Mister Donut, which I just made up.
Our favorite French pastry shop is run by a Japanese chef, Terai Norihiko, who studied in France and Belgium and opened a small shop called Aigre-Douce, in the Mejiro neighborhood. Aigre-Douce is a pastry museum, the kind of place where everything looks too beautiful to eat. On her first couple of visits, Iris chose a gooey caramel brownie concoction, but she and Laurie soon sparred over the affections of Wallace, a round two-layer cake with lime cream atop chocolate, separated by a paper-thin square chocolate wafer. "Wallace is a one-woman man," said Laurie.
Iris giggled in the way eight-year-olds do at anything that smacks of romance. We never figured out why they named a cake Wallace. I blame IKEA. I've always been more interested in chocolate than fruit desserts, but for some reason, perhaps because it was summer and the fruit desserts looked so good and I was not quite myself the whole month, I gravitated toward the blackberry and raspberry items, like a cup of raspberry puree with chantilly cream and a layer of sponge cake.