Graham Kerr, a famous cooking personality once remarked 'I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course with a flavour that lasts.'
With an abundance of Chinese bakeries lining estates and streets of Hong Kong, it was quite exhilarating to say the least when we read about a recommendation of a western pastry dessert hideout located along the corridors of The ONE shopping centre located at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Upon arrival, the service was immaculate, with the waiting staffs greeting us unanimously. The manager even took extra efforts to introduce us to the ingredients of the cakes we ordered and also provided us with more information about the other restaurants that Harlan's have to offer. Anyhow, time to let the sweet tooth sink it in!
Tofu Cheesecake ($238/1 lb)
Having tried countless tofu cheesecakes, we decided to give this a shot. This was baked and served in a rather unique fashion. Unlike common cheesecakes, there was no biscuit crumbs layer at the bottom of the cheesecake. Instead the biscuit crumbs were kneaded into knots, which tasted crisp and melted in our mouths. The texture of the tofu cheesecake was denser than a normal tofu, yet lighter than that of a classic New York cheesecake. The more dominating taste of the cake in general was that of cheese, which thankfully was not overwhelming. Apart from some tofu cubes on the surface of the cake, it would be pretty difficult to identify the presence of tofu in the dessert. A huge plus though was that the cheesecake was not overly saccharin. Do note that the tofu cheesecake was only available in at least 1/2 lb in size and weight and not in petite offering.
White chocolate mousse and black truffles ($48/-)
We were informed by the manager that owing to Harlan's primary operation as a fine dining restaurant, their cake shop was able to capitalize on luxury ingredients such as black truffles and foie gras in their dessert range. The white chocolate mousse emitted a strong truffle aroma owed to the black truffle paste used, invigorating our smelling sense preceding sampling. It melted instantly in our mouths and was very smooth indeed. The flavours of the black truffles lingered in the aftertaste, leaving us with much to fathom, with a slice of fresh black truffle nestled at the top of the dome. The icing on the cake was ironically the biscuit base of the cake, littered with fragmented pieces of white chocolate. This treat is a 'must-try' for truffle fans and one should certainly stay prepared for an entertaining array of flavours with each mouth bite.
Being a huge fan of lime and lemon desserts, the lime mousse cake sounded too tempting to resist. The strong zesty flavours of lime were unfortunately limited to the surface layer and we would have preferred it more if it carried through to the interior of the cake. There was a distinct layering within the cake with a spongy interior stuffed with crystallized ginger pieces and a lighter mousse coating. The crystallized ginger filling was unexpected and certainly did not live up to be a pleasant surprise either. Till date, we have yet to find a worthy opponent to challenge Maison Kayser's lemon tart when it comes to acidic desserts.
Rose Champagne White Chocolate ($42/-)
This was one of their recommended signature cakes so it certainly came with an expectation to match. Offered as a dual-layered cake, the upper layer seemed to lack any flavours of the rose champagne, while the base layer carried a subtle tinge which suited our palate. We were particularly impressed with the immaculate touch of the chef to give a varied texture to the dessert. The exterior surface of the white chocolate had a crisp disposition, which blended well with the light, smooth and moist sponge cake interior, infused with a light mousse. Repeated tasting though gave a jelat feeling, perhaps owed to the overdose of creaminess from the white chocolate. The decorative rose petals at the top of the cake was however too 'artificial' to say the least to consume. It was bland and pretty much tasteless, a stark contrast to the usual icing complementing a cake.
Sexy Lady ($48/-)
The 'Sexy Lady' was one of Harlan's signature cakes, which was highly recommended to us by the servers. Delicately shaped and sculpted, this was certainly a rich treat for dark chocolate fans. Fine valrhona chocolate, specially imported from France, with at least 70% cocoa was used in the making of the cake. The core of the cake was evidently the raspberry soaked in balsamic vinegar, which offered a neutralizing balance to the dense and bitter sweet dark chocolate. The raspberry was simmered with fine balsamic vinegar aged at least 25 years. Like the rest of Harlan's other cakes, this chocolate decadence was a marvel, as the level of sweetness was optimal and did not leave us scurrying for drinks. The denser exterior contrasted perfectly with the smooth mousse on the inside, complemented by the crunchy cookie-tart base. The centrepiece to this cake was none other than the pair of 'sexy legs' made of chocolate at the top of the dome-shaped dessert, which drew attention once more to its provocative name.
Being a dessert connoisseur at heart, a good brew is essential to complement a dessert-tasting trip. Using 'Lavazza' dark roasted coffee beans, the black Americano was everything that we desired and wanted, with the prime balance of acidity, giving a smooth aftertaste.
Harlan's Cake Shop
Shop L411, 4/F, The ONE Mall,
100 Nathan Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
, by cy