Location: 386 Royal York Road, Toronto
Remember Beard Papa? Because I certainly do! That was (and still is, though their only Canadian locations are in Vancouver) a delightful Japanese chain that specialized in delicious cream puffs. They used to have a location in the Pacific Mall, but then they broke hearts across the GTA by shutting down like a bunch of jerks.
Sadly, there’s no indication that they’re coming back anytime soon, but in the meanwhile, we’ve got Choux Lab.
Choux Lab serves up choux pastries (which are light and fluffy, with a crispy exterior) with a variety of fillings. The vanilla is probably the most Beard-Papa-esque, but they were actually handing out samples of that one, and it was delicious (and indeed, did remind me of Beard Papa, with a creamy, custardy filling), so I figured I’d order something else.
I went with the hazelnut, and it was very, very good. The filling was rich and ultra-creamy, with a great hazelnut flavour and a nice balance of sweetness — sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Beard Papa used to fill their puffs to order, and I was worried that the pre-made ones they serve here might lack that great crispy/fluffy/creamy combo. But the one I tried wasn’t soggy at all, and all the textures were right where they should be.
Choux Lab is just a few stores over from San Remo, and I worry that everyone will just stick with the reliable deliciousness there and not give this place a shot. But everyone needs to check this place out; I need them to stick around forever and not break my heart like Beard Papa did.
Location: 4040 Creditview Road #1, Mississauga
Akko Cake House is a bit oddly named. They do have a handful of cakes at the front, but mostly, this is a fairly standard Chinese bakery with a whole bunch of sweet and savoury buns and tarts.
I tried a few sweet buns: coconut, custard, and walnut.
The pastry itself was quite good — it was fresh, a little bit sweet, and super fluffy.
I was intrigued about the walnut variety; I don’t recall ever seeing a walnut bun before, and I’ve certainly never tried one. It was fairly subtle, however, with a very thin layer of walnut paste and a few walnut chunks. It tasted more like a plain bun with a mild walnut flavour.
The custard was about what you’d expect. It was sweet, creamy, and tasty.
The coconut bun was where it was at. The generous filling was really tasty, with a nice coconut flavour. It also has a surprisingly strong hit of salt that does a great job of rounding out the sweetness. It’s really good. The bakery was packed (the line was to the door when I left), and with buns that good, it’s easy enough to see why.
Location: 859 College Street, Toronto
I’m sorry to have to inform you, but this is one of those “stop whatever you’re doing right now and visit this bakery” moments, so whatever you’re doing right now — even if it’s important — stop it immediately. Get in your car, or get on public transit, and head over to Barbershop Patisserie. It’s the real deal.
I’ve been there a few times now, and everything is fantastic. Apparently their most popular pastry is the lemon bichon, which is kind of like a kouign-amann — it features a flaky, croissant-like laminated pastry and an exterior layer of crispy sugar, which has a deep, dark caramelized flavour. But it’s also filled with a generous amount of creamy, tart lemon curd, which contrasts perfectly with the sweet exterior. It’s not the most photogenic dessert ever, but man it’s amazing. It’s probably one of the best pastries I’ve ever had.
The chocolate chip cookie isn’t quite as mind-blowing as the lemon bichon (what is?), but it’s a top-notch cookie, with a great contrast between its crispy exterior and chewy interior, and a very generous amount of above average chocolate. The light sprinkling of salt on top helps to balance things out.
I also tried the wild blueberry custard tart, and hey, guess what? It’s delicious. It features a great balance between the creamy custard and the sweet blueberries, and of course that buttery pastry is outstanding.
But why are you still reading this? You should be on your way already.
Location: 270 West Beaver Creek Road, Richmond Hill
If you have anyone you’re looking to impress with a fancier dim sum joint, you could do worse than Yu Seafood. The restaurant itself is quite a bit more sleek than your average dim sum place, and the presentation of the dishes is a bit snazzier.
And of course, it also has the prices to match — it’s not outrageous, but it’s noticeably more expensive than the norm.
The food is all solid, though nothing quite blew me away. I think pretty much everything was slightly (or more than slightly) underseasoned.
One of their specialties is the visually striking Bamboo Charcoal & Egg Yolk Bun. It looks impressive and tastes pretty good, but the molten custard filling was broken; it was lumpy and oily.
Everything I tried was quite tasty — but given the hefty pricing, it’s not quite as amazing as you’d hope.
Location: 128 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Taiyaki NYC is basically the same concept as Sukoi Desserts, in which a taiyaki (a Japanese waffle-like dessert in the shape of a fish) is filled with ice cream and other toppings.
It’s a dessert that’s tailor-made for Instagram; in fact, Taiyaki NYC even has a portion of their wall made entirely of flowers to make your photo really pop. I just wish they put in half as much effort to make the food pop.
It’s a dessert I should love. Ice cream is great. Taiyaki is great. Cramming those two things together should be a home run. And yet…
I went with the Mangonificient, which is supposedly one of their most popular flavours — it features a mango/vanilla swirl inside a custard taiyaki.
The ice cream is the biggest issue. It’s not good — it has a decent mango flavour, but it’s icy and thin. It’s topped with a cookie and a few tiny cubes of tasteless mochi on a stick. It looks impressive, but the taste is another story.
I will say, however, that the taiyaki itself is actually quite good. It’s nice and fresh, with a crispy exterior and a perfectly cakey/fluffy interior. They sell them on their own, which is clearly the thing to order. It probably won’t be much of a hit on social media, though, so what’s the point, right?