Words and Images by Pelin Keskin
It was raining when we walked here, a light drizzle to close out the final hours of daylight. As we strayed away from the main streets of Williamsburg and walked further away from the subway stop, we noticed how empty the streets became, how few cars there were and how it didn’t feel like we were in New York anymore. Like some kind of post apocalyptic world, we walked the desolate streets trying to shake off the eerie feeling until eventually saw the glow of the fairy lights of Patisserie Tomoko getting brighter and brighter as we approached. Planted under a luxury apartment complex, it feels a little out of place but it’s location is somewhat suited. A couple was walking out as we walked in and I must’ve done an internal shimmy when I realised we were the only two patrons in there.
The seating at Patisserie Tomoko is found by the counter that stretches around in a semi circle. On one small end, you can pick your pastry to go and on the other, you sit and have the pleasure of seeing your desserts prepared in front of you.
A warning; this is an extremely pretty place. The reason why I said it’s suited to be located where it is, is because it offers a form of romantic escapism. Its fairy lights, cream aesthetics and classical music do nothing but soften your mood and if you have a significant other then I highly recommend going here because for the entirety of your stay you don’t feel like you’re anywhere but there. Yes, I’m saying all of this and we haven’t even gotten to the desserts yet.
We ordered the prix fixe menu each and a jasmine tea to share. The menu consists of one dessert and petit fours - there is a deluxe option with an additional course. We ordered a different dessert dish each - one apple mille feuille and one fig tart as they had sold out of pear tart for the day. The belief that the Japanese do Western style better than Westerners is widely held and it’s definitely the case when they infuse their Japanese flavours and ingredients with French technique. Whether it’s Chikalicious in East Village or Millie’s Creperie in Toronto, this pairing is a winning combination and Patisserie Tomoko is added to the roster.
Tomoko Kato - the owner and pastry chef - prepared her well thought out and well executed prix fixe menu in front of us and each step was as palatable as the last. A prix fixe in this context can be a challenge when dessert is mostly consumed in only one small portion and doesn’t invoke more-ishness (unless you’re me, shout out to all 32 of my sweet teeth) but it works. The greatest quality of the desserts is that they're simultaneously subtle and packed with flavour so it doesn’t weigh heavy in your stomach as you eat. You can, of course, stray from the prix fixe and order singular desserts or baked goods if you don’t want to commit to the array of flavours the set menu offers, but the experience of it showcases the performance side of preparation which is one of the many great things about the world of patisserie.
The most regal part of the prix fixe is the main dessert dish. It is meticulously selected and placed, as if the plate is her gallery and each ingredient is a carefully curated art piece. Every part of the menu is so evidently thought out and provides an experience that leaves you feeling some type of luxurious as if you paid a lot more than you actually did.
Patisserie Tomoko is an oasis in eerie Williamsburg that reminds you of why desserts should never be afterthoughts. I left, giddy and light, before an annoyance crept its way into my head; why the fuck did I pay all that money in the past on shitty molten lava cakes?