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.
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.
Location: 3276 Midland Avenue, Scarborough
I don’t particularly like matcha. It has a vaguely bitter, swampy flavour that I find unappealing.
So obviously, when I went to Golden Bubbles, I ordered the Matcha Red Bean Waffle despite the fact that they have many non-matcha options that look perfectly delicious. Because I’m a stupid person?
In my defense, I’ve been craving a red bean dessert (probably because I’ve been watching Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman on Netflix, a delightfully quirky Japanese show about a dessert-obsessed businessman). Plus, it’s been a few years since I’ve tried a matcha dessert, so my general mindset was “prove me wrong, Golden Bubbles. Prove me wrong.”
Yeah, I still don’t like matcha. But if you do, I’m sure you’ll find this quite tasty. It consists of a matcha poppy seed waffle, green tea ice cream, and a sweet red bean topping.
The fresh Hong Kong style waffle was great, with a delicately crisp exterior and custardy interior. And, flavour notwithstanding, the quality of the ice cream was very good. It was rich and creamy. The beans were tasty as well.
But no, sorry matcha fans. It’s beloved, and I just don’t get it. I won’t say it’s flat-out gross, but its popularity baffles me.
I guess I’ll wait another few years and try it again.