Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Starbucks sells French macarons...

in Japan!!! I had popped into Starbucks for a much-needed hot cup of Joe. It had been drizzling all day in Tokyo, and I had unwisely refused to carry an umbrella, thinking that my water-resistant jacket would suffice. By mid-afternoon I was soaked, shivering, and seeking shelter somewhere.

Thus while standing in line the Shibuya branch of Starbucks, I spotted these macarons (not macaroons) and figured, "Why not?". Cold and tired, I was in need of refreshment. Moreover, the macarons were perhaps the last thing I expected to see in Japan, and I was a bit curious why Starbucks sold macarons here, and not in the United States.
(New York City has a handful of specialty shops selling macarons, but not Starbucks).

My excitement evaporated upon my first bite of the vanilla macaron, and my face contorted into a grimace. Ugh - the taste was all wrong - too sweet, too artificial. The macaron lacked firmness - the expected chewiness did not materialize; instead, the entire confection crumbled into pieces right in my palms.
Thinking I'd have better luck with the citrus flavored macaron proved to be wishful thinking.

On the upside, I was lucky to get a seat on the second floor of Starbucks which provided an excellent vantage point for witnessing the famed Shibuya crossing. Car traffic in all directions comex to a stop, and hordes of pedestrians from five different places scramble across the intersections on the way to their destinations.

Below is the best among the various Youtube videos I found - it was shot on a clear day though.

This scene was immortalized in the movie "
Lost in Translation" with a bored Scarlet Jo aimlessly wandering around Tokyo , and I believe Sofia Coppola shot the scene from the same Starbucks vantage point. The crowds on this wet Saturday afternoon were a bit thin, but the sprinkling of colorful umbrellas mixed with the predominantly transparent ones was a sight to behold nevertheless. That provided some consolation for the disappointing macarons which I came across in other Starbucks branches on subsequent occasions, but wisely refrained from buying.