Graham Hornigold is the longstanding executive pastry chef for the international Hakkasan Group, but traveling the globe making cakes doesn't mean that he has a sweet tooth. "I don't like desserts," he admits. But his distaste for sugar dictates the flavors of his streamlined patisserie. "You don't taste sugar," he explains. "You taste what you should taste."
And beginning this Wednesday, March 29, lots of Houstonians will be tasting his wares. Long-awaited Yauatcha, part of the London-based Hakkasan Group, opens its first location in the continental United States in the "jewel box" building in front of the Galleria this week in a space adjoining the Webster. Diners should certainly be excited about the savory delicacies about to become part of Houston's gustatory fabric, but the desserts are notable in their own right.
When diners enter Yauatcha, they're greeted by Hornigold's pastries (made in a kitchen to be led by local pastry chef Dory Fung when he returns to London), ready to be taken to-go, or enjoyed in the restaurant with some genmaicha or jasmine tea.
But the cakes were designed to follow the flavors of Chinese food. Hornigold tastes a spoonful of garlicky chile oil before sampling his pastries. The goal, he says, is to immediately erase the lingering funk. "The receptors become slightly more compromised," he says of the heavy flavors of the savory plates. But the balanced notes of his desserts restore clarity to diners' tastebuds. The same trick works moving from dessert to dessert, each cleansing the palate while also stimulating it. "It's not just cake. It does a job," he says, accurately.
Which makes it easy to make an excuse to taste more than one.