This purveyor of the exquisite, traditional Japanese pastries called wagashi is wonderful, even when you're just looking.
An assortment of wagashi might make a striking present for a friend or relative. Before you ask for the gift-wrap, though, try one or two yourself; pastries made from beans, grains, potatoes, and sesame seeds aren't to everyone's taste.
The feathery rice cake called oribenishiki (above and first photo below; $2.50) is imprinted with the image of a five-lobed compound leaf on its ruddy brown top; it's a sign that inside, you'll find pastes of pale chestnut as well as darker red bean. Oribenishiki may be a seasonal offering, for autumn. In spring, look for sakura daifuku (next photo below, in "biteaway" view; $2.50), whose filling of white-bean paste is sweetened with the very light, clean flavor of cherry blossoms; it's wrapped in glutinous rice. The white-bean jelly called jyukushi (at bottom; $1.60) takes its color and flavor from minced persimmon.
On numerous other occasions (but not shown here): Yakiimo (literally, "sweet potato"; $2.50) was an autumn-colored confection blending white bean and sweet potato paste wrapped in a cinnamon crepe, sliced on a bias to reveal its tuberlike core, and dotted there with tiny black seeds. Kurimanju ($1.90), which Minomoto described a sweet pastry with a flour, honey, and butter extract, had a white bean and (slightly chunky) chestnut filling. Kuridaifuku ($2.80) was a pale-green sugar-dusted rice cake filled with red bean paste, surrounding a chestnut that was hard to divvy up into two separate bites. Its cousin mamedaifuku ($2.50) coupled whole red beans — some poking through the wrapper — with the bean paste.
608 Fifth Ave. (entrance on W. 49th St.)