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: 77 Kensington Avenue, Toronto
It seems like every few months, some new food trend sweeps its way through the city. In the last couple of years we’ve had stuff like poke, chicken and waffles, Japanese cheesecakes, and sushi burritos. The latest seems to be souffle pancakes, a Japanese dessert that’s exactly what it sounds like (a cross between pancakes and souffle).
If what they’re serving at Hanabusa Cafe is any indication, this is a trend that I can get behind.
My only other experience with this dish was at a place called am.pm in Hong Kong, and that version was dense, overly eggy, and just all-around unappealing.
The one at Hanabusa Cafe, on the other hand, was the polar opposite — it was almost absurdly fluffy, with a mild sweetness and a satisfying custardy flavour without any of the in-your-face egginess you might be expecting. I ordered the Original Pancake, which is the simplest choice: it’s three pancakes topped with a dollop of whipped cream and served with a side of strawberries and blackberries. It’s outstanding.
Unlike a traditional pancake, it’s already fairly sweet, so it’s perfectly delicious on its own. I could eat about a million of these (though they’re surprisingly heavy, so three feels like a good number). The ethereal lightness combined with the custardy flavour is seriously addictive.
I’ll admit that my expectations weren’t all that high, but I really, really enjoyed this.
Location: 160 Baldwin Street, Toronto
I was still hungry after the horrifying abomination I was served at Kiss the Tiramisu; I couldn’t eat more than a third of it. So I went a couple of stores down to Little Pebbles, a great little Japanese cafe in Kensington Market.
They have the usual assortment of coffees to pick from, as well as a variety of French/Japanese-inspired baked goods. I went with the Strawberry Sakura Mont Blanc, which features an almond-infused crust, pastry cream, a whole strawberry, and strawberry mont blanc cream.
Maybe I was just happy to eat something that wasn’t disgusting, but I really enjoyed this. The nutty crust was tasty, the whole strawberry was sweet and ripe, and the mont blanc cream did a really great job of balancing the chestnut flavour you’d expect with something a bit fruitier.
The whole thing was quite subdued in its flavours, but it all worked really well. I’d definitely like to come back here and try some of their other offerings, because everything looked really good.
Location: 715 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga
As a kid, one of my favourite things about going to Canada’s Wonderland was the ice cream; I’d either get a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone from the place right near the entrance (which, sadly, eventually turned into a Dairy Queen), or if I was feeling particularly hungry, I’d get a funnel cake.
Ah, funnel cakes. What’s not to like? You’ve got the plate-sized piece of delicious criss-crossed fried dough, the icing sugar, the very sweet strawberry-chunk-infused strawberry sauce, and finally, a heaping mound of soft serve ice cream.
No, it’s not fine dining, but if it doesn’t put a smile on your face, then I don’t even know what to say to you. You’re dead to me.
I almost never find myself at Canada’s Wonderland these days, so my funnel cake cravings have gone unfulfilled.
Imagine my delight when I found out that Dairy Cream in Mississauga serves a Wonderland-esque funnel cake, and that their version is just as it should be. The warm, freshly-fried dough, the strawberry sauce, the above average creamy soft serve: it’s all here. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but if you’re looking for a mind-blowing funnel cake, you’ll probably be searching for a while.