I easily fall into a spell looking into counters lined with exquisite pralines, and the new Kakawa chocolatier in Darlinghurst is the latest place to continue this hold on me. The boutique is a nice front-display break from the endless car showrooms and rental vehicle outlets that keep William Street so drab, and what’s in store is even more appealing.
Run by head chocolatier Jin Sun Kim and co-owner/partner David Tobias Ralph, Kakawa is filled with many ways to stun your sweet tooth: chocolate slabs and lollipops, bags of fudge (choose from White Chocolate & Vanilla or Milk Chocolate & Sea Salt) and wrappers sealed in with caramels.
As beautiful and understated as everything looks though, I can’t help but instantly crane over the counter – inspecting the rows of pralines, as my brain settles an internal ballot on which ones to take home.
I end up trying ten of the flavours and am impressed by the collection. It’s probably a zero-suspense giveaway that the Basil praline is one of my favourites, because I go home with three of them. I like how Kakawa uses the more fragrant Thai version of the herb, and the basil’s sweet-savoury edge works exquisitely well when enveloped in bitter dark choc.
The Citrus comes topped with a thin, candied-peel sliver and tastes like an artisan Jaffa – levels better than the original and far too nice to ever roll down any cinema aisle.
Green Tea is dusted with maccha powder and, as you bite through, the praline reveals a smoky, creamy and sweet triple-hit of flavour. It’s like eating green tea ice cream in choc form. (Instant fan status, guaranteed.)
Strawberry Pox, despite its medically unattractive name, is very easy on the eye (its red speckles more like a benign constellation of brightness, rather than the skin-pocked condition the title implants in your head). The white chocolate hides a burst of strawberry puree, as gooey as it is insanely delicious – not too sweet, just intensely berry-strong. This is the only pox I’d wish on anyone.
Kakawa’s motto is “edible jewels for you” and Port Dome definitely looks like a beautifully cut gemstone, with washes of red and white over its cocoa surface. The flavour (sweet port and bitter choc) is a bit too “old man” for my personal taste, although I like how it is rolled in ginger sugar. And I rate it a lot more than the usual alcohol-centric pralines that are drowned in liqueurs.
My utter favourite though is the Raspberry and Mint Crisp – even though it didn’t make it home in the most perfect of states (it flattened and burst in my bag after my dunce-like self pushed some magazines on top), but even in its destroyed form, it still ended up blowing me away. I always love the fruity-sweet intensity of raspberry, but lined up with white chocolate and crackles of mint, this praline makes the shortlist of best I’ve ever tried. (Even if I have to eat it with a spoon.)
My only semi-criticism of this lovely chocolatier is that the labels of the pralines don’t always match up with rows – so it’s easy to get a little mixed up with what exactly is what. I was all keyed up about ordering the Mango & Passionfruit, only to discover it was sold out (the line of chocs in its place were actually a hazelnut variety). That praline’s quick disappearance though, only forms a perfect excuse to hurry back.
Kakawa has only been open since last week and consequently has had some crazy operating times (7am to 7pm last Friday)! Now though, you can walk into the store 9am to 6.30pm on weekdays and the employees put up the closing sign slightly earlier on weekends: at 4pm. If you waltz by earlier though, you’ll see them in the kitchen from 7.30am, readying the small hand-made treats for anyone in need of an early morning sugar rush.
Kakawa Chocolates, Shop 5, 147 William St (a few blocks from the Darlinghurst Rd end), Darlinghurst, (02) 9331 8818, www.kakawachocolates.com.au. You can also find more information on the store’s Facebook page.