Location: 160 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Sukoshi Mart is a little Japanese convenience store in Kensington Market that sells hard-to-find Japanese goods. They also sell freshly-made taiyaki, a waffle-like dessert that’s traditionally filled with either red bean or custard.
I like this place. If you’re looking for Japanese snacks or candy, it’s worth a visit.
The taiyaki, on the other hand? Not so much.
It’s fine. It’s perfectly edible, but the exterior is dense and doughy, and the red bean is overly sweet. It’s also misshapen and haphazard, so it doesn’t even have the (usually) delightful visual component. It’s not the best.
Location: 13 Baldwin Street, Toronto
One of the things that takes some getting used to in Asia is that some countries there consider white bread to essentially be a dessert. More than once, I’ve gone to a convenience store and bought what appears to be a Twinkie-esque pastry, only to realize that it’s just a plain white bun, like a hot dog bun.
Which is to say that if you’ve never had the type of Japanese cream bun they serve at Hattendo, you might be surprised to discover that the bun itself is basically just a soft, fluffy hamburger bun. Once you get used to it, however, it’s quite tasty.
I tried three: custard, chocolate, and red bean. The bun itself is quite nice. It’s soft, fluffly, and just a little bit sweet.
The custard was my least favourite of the three flavours. It was nice and creamy, but the flavour was middling; there just wasn’t much to it.
The chocolate was much better, with a pronounced cocoa-infused flavour and a satisfyingly restrained level of sweetness.
The red bean was the best of the three. If you normally don’t like beany sweets, this might just be the perfect gateway dessert — it’s super creamy and tasty, with a really nice balance between the creamy custard and the sweet red beans.
Location: 3235 Highway 7, Markham
The Cups is a little dessert shop in the First Markham plaza that specializes in bingsu, a tasty Korean shaved ice dessert.
I generally liked shaved ice, though sometimes, it’s a bit watery. The Cups has a fairly ingenious solution for this issue: they use milk instead of water for their ice, which gives the dessert a much richer, creamier consistency.
I ordered the mango bingsu, which features mango chunks, cheesecake chunks, condensed milk, mango sauce, and whipped cream.
It’s quite good. The mango pieces are ripe and sweet, and the ice-to-stuff ratio is pretty much right on point. Plus, the aforementioned milk ice ensures that the whole thing has a satisfyingly creamy consistency.
On another visit, I tried the red bean, which features soybean powder, mochi cubes, almond flakes, red bean, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I think I might have liked it even better than the mango, though the ice-to-stuff ratio was a bit off. It needed a bit more red bean (I don’t think there was any in the middle).
Location: 760 Queen Street West, Toronto
Taiyaki — a fish-shaped, waffle-like dessert that’s traditionally filled with tasty custard or red bean — is great. What’s not to like? It’s delicious.
But I was a little bit concerned that the taiyaki cones they’re serving at Sukoi Desserts might be one of those looks-first, taste-second Instagram-bait creations that have been popping up all over the city. The fact that I overheard the owners discussing the cost of bringing “influencers” to the shop certainly didn’t instill confidence.
You can customize your cone in a few different ways — the ice cream (they had black sesame and vanilla when I went), the filling (red bean, custard, or Nutella), and the topping (chocolate cookie crumbs, graham cracker crumbs, or sprinkles).
I got a black sesame / vanilla twist, a topping of cookie crumbs, and a filling of red bean.
It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but I wouldn’t call it empty Instagram bait, either. The ice cream was fine — it had a pronounced sesame flavour and an enjoyably subtle sweetness. It was a little grainy and not particularly creamy, but it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it.
The taiyaki was easily the highlight. It was warm and fresh, with a pronounced crispiness on its exterior and a perfect amount of substance on its interior. The generous amount of tasty red bean filling complimented it perfectly.
Overall it’s a tasty enough dessert, but the middling ice cream mostly just gets in the way of the delicious taiyaki, so… I guess it kinda is Instagram bait. Oh well.
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.