Wagashi suppliers to the Imperial Family offer a different experience to customers overseas.

Japanese confectionery company Toraya is a family-run business that was founded over 400 years ago, making it one of the oldest family-run businesses in the country.

After becoming a purveyor to the Imperial Court in Kyoto in the late 1500s, Toraya continues to supply the Imperial Family with sweets today, giving the brand an air of high-class appeal. This is one of the reasons why you can find the company’s only overseas branch in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, which is home to a number of famous high-end boutiques.

▼ Toraya, or “とらや” in Japanese hiragana script, is easily recognisable by its noren curtain, which is read in the traditional style, from right to left.

On a recent trip to Paris, our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa decided to stop by the Paris branch of Toraya, which has been in business there since 1980. However, Ikuna wasn’t there to try the pretty sweets the company is known for — she was keen to try something the company isn’t known for, and that’s their “Avocani Don“.

The Avocani Don is a limited-edition dish, and its availability is best confirmed in advance, by phone or in person at the store, as the menu tends to change week by week. After Ikuna initially enquired about it, she was told the dish would be available the following week, so that’s when she visited, taking a seat in the store’s cafe area.

Once she was seated, she took a look at the menu, skipping the sweets section to make her selection from the savoury section instead.

She ordered the “Menu Avocani“, the set that includes the “Avocani Don”, and she didn’t have to wait long before it arrived at her table.

The colours were absolutely beautiful, even more so against the matte black donburi (big bowl) the meal was served in. Lifting a spoonful to her mouth, she smiled at the clever title this dish had been given — with “Avocani” being an amalgamation of the words “avocado” and “kani“, the Japanese word for “crab”.

▼ Those two ingredients are exactly what this dish contains.

The thick-cut avocado and light crab meat were a gorgeous, melty mix of umami goodness, all brought together with plump rice and a refreshing vinegary sauce. The level of quality bordered on perfection — a testament to Toraya’s dedication to excellence, and a meal Ikuna hopes they’ll start offering in Japan.

The ohitashi side dish, pictured above, contained spinach, carrots, and mushrooms, boiled in a dashi broth, and these too, were extremely fresh, flavourful and delicious. The steamed chawanmushi with dashi stock, pictured below, was thick and rich — another superb offering.

The entire set, which includes miso soup and a cup of Japanese tea, cost 20 euros (US$22.49). Considering the fact that this was the 1st arrondissement of Paris, and the meal included relatively rare Japanese ingredients, all of which were sublime, this was a really great deal.

▼ It’s no wonder people in Paris line up for meals like this.

Seeing as Toraya is essentially a specialist confectionery store, Ikuna couldn’t leave without trying an exclusive sweet available only at the Paris location.

The Yokan AU Chocolat comes in a set of three for 5.5 euros, and Ikuna decided to pair it with a Toraya Hot Chocolate for 6.5 euros. The layout was a beautiful blend of Japanese and Western styles, and each morsel of yokan, a Japanese confection made with red bean paste, sugar, and agar, was smooth and sweet.

▼ Delectable red bean flavours gave way to a lingering chocolate finish.

The hot chocolate and chocolate yokan were a wonderful end to a wonderful meal, and Ikuna couldn’t resist purchasing some of the store’s other delicious sweets to take home with her.

Ikuna was pleased to find Toraya’s luxury ambience and quality products faithfully replicated in Paris, so many miles away from the country where it was born so many centuries ago.

It’s definitely worth visiting, and if you’re looking for more impressive Japanese finds in Paris, don’t forget to visit Muji and Book Off, where you can find all sorts of unusual treasures!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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