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?
Location: 4750 Yonge Street – Unit 119, North York
I’ve mentioned before that the Japanese Netflix TV show, Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (about a Japanese businessman who’s obsessed with dessert), is pretty much the best. It’s frequently hilarious and features some mesmerizing food porn, not to mention enough slickly-shot footage of Tokyo to make you want to get on the next flight. It’s great.
He eats at least one dessert per episode, and it all looks amazing. Sadly, much of it is really difficult (if not impossible) to find in the GTA.
One of the desserts he eats is called ohagi, and you can actually find it at HCafe, a tiny little Japanese dessert shop near Yonge and Sheppard.
It’s pretty unique. It features a ball of chewy rice (a mix of glutinous rice and regular rice) surrounded by a sweet red bean paste.
It’s not quite like any dessert I’ve ever had — it’s chewy, almost like mochi, but with a coarser texture thanks to the grains of rice. The sweetness is very subtle, and though the flavour is mostly beany, there’s an underlying fruitiness.
It’s odd, but also surprisingly delicious. If you like mochi, this hits a lot of the same notes.
Location: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Sasaki Fine Pastry is the latest gem I’ve discovered thanks to the inimitable Suresh Doss, who specializes in sussing out the best non-Western eats in the city, usually out in the ‘burbs. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following him, I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life.
Sasaki specializes in daifuku, a Japanese dessert in which soft, chewy mochi is stuffed with various sweet fillings. On this particular visit they had seven flavours available; I tried mango cream, strawberry cream, yuzu cream, and sesame cream.
It’s easily the best mochi I’ve ever had. I like mochi, but it can sometimes be a little too gummy. But the version here had a delightfully delicate chew that almost melts in your mouth.
The subtly sweet, creamy fillings were all great, though the strawberry — which featured a mixture of strawberry cream and sweet red bean filling — was the highlight.
I also tried the red bean and cream doriyaki, which features a filling of sweet red bean and whipped cream that’s sandwiched between two little pancakes. Like the daifuki, this was super fresh, subtly sweet, and extremely delicious.