Courtesy, Patisserie Fouet
When Bangkok-born Ian Kittichai opened Spot Dessert Bar in 2009, he had no idea the impact his after-dinner destination would have on the dessert scene in the City.
While the beloved institution wasn’t the first Asian bakery to make its mark—Fay Da, for example, opened in Chinatown in 1991 and has since expanded to multiple locations—Spot’s helped introduce Asian desserts to a new crowd that wasn’t necessarily seeking them out. Setting up shop on St. Marks Place during a time when there were plenty of shops and restaurants but no place for after-dinner or after-drink treats, Kittichai helped familiarize New York diners with dessert ingredients mostly considered savory, like corn flakes, matcha and kobocha (a sweet squash)—which have been adopted by other pastry spots around town.
Today’s Asian bakeries in New York have evolved to reflect global culinary influence. Elegant and upscale, yet playful in their presentation (and delicious to boot), these bakeries offer surprising flavor touches, melding Asian, American and European techniques and ingredients. Below, we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite locations in the City today. Visit one of these Asian bakeries for an extraordinary NYC culinary experience—and perhaps the highlight of your entire trip.
Taro cup. Courtesy, Ando Patisserie
214 E. 10th St., East Village, Manhattan
As much as New Yorkers love Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Fay Da Bakery and the sweets at their local dim sum parlor, Ando Patisserie is the next evolution from those favorites. The modern East Village Chinese bakery melds traditional ingredients, like osmanthus (a flower frequently used in teas and cakes), seamlessly into Basque cheesecake. You can feast on Earl Grey bubble tea egg tarts (more savory than sweet), parfaits of durian or taro, taro custard cream puffs, jasmine panna cotta, sea salt cheese cream sponge cake and black sesame crepe roll cake. The portions are small enough that you can order six or seven desserts with a couple of friends and sample them all, experiencing new flavors with each bite.
The important thing is to keep an open mind as you wait in line at the tiny storefront. Some delicacies, like the durian parfait, may be only for lovers of that particular fruit, while others, like the taro custard cream puff, employ unusual combinations, such as seaweed, salted egg and pork floss.
Be sure to: Try the seasonal, limited-time items such as this spring’s jasmine and white peach parfait.
253 W. 51st St., Midtown West, Manhattan
By experimenting with his Asian-influenced desserts at home, chef Gary Chan brings fun, ultramodern dessert creations to Midtown. The little cakes here are adorable—like the panda cake composed of dark chocolate tart, miso caramel and crunchy feuilletine—but don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Chan, who trained at the International Culinary Institute’s Pastry Techniques Program, opened this spot for serious pastry lovers, fusing French technique with Asian flavors. One example are his versions of profiteroles, filling delicately crafted cream puffs with flavors like matcha white chocolate and black sesame. Try as well the black sesame mousse hazelnut chocolate cake.
Be sure to: Order a lavender latte, Hong Kong duck (coffee, black tea and condensed milk) or a seasonal spiced bourbon caramel latte for a great complement to your sweet treats.
Courtesy, Gong Gan
37-02 Prince St., Flushing, Queens
You know K-pop and maybe K-beauty, but do you know K-dessert? Dining at Gong Gan is a moment that feels fashionable, fun and very now. Pastry chef Anna Kim (formerly of Patisserie Fouet and Per Se), restaurateur June Kwan and fashion designer and painter BJ Kim joined forces for this upscale cake emporium and wine bar. The desserts are purposely over the top to help “fill the void,” which is what the name Gong Gan refers to. That flair is evident in desserts like the black tea cheesecake with fanciful mushroom-shaped meringue decorations, and French toast and croissants piled high with whole strawberries. Newness and nonconformity are the currency, as the menu features croffles, cruffins and frequent debuts of desserts. The drinks are just as outlandish and exciting, like the corn latte topped with corn cookies and cream.
The aesthetics of the inventions take inspiration from shapes and colors found in nature and carry over to the interior design, which incorporates curves and circular patterns. The result: a spot that’s surprising, adventurous and worthy of the subway ride out to Flushing, where you’ll find a host of other delightful attractions to visit.
Be sure to: Stay long enough to watch this dessert bar transform into a natural wine bar at night.
44 E. 21st St., Flatiron District
If you try one interesting food in New York, our vote is for the exquisite and slightly offbeat corn mousse cake at Lysée. Suffice to say corn gets incorporated at almost every step of the way, from corn flour to corn powder to corn sable (the shortbread-like bottom). But it’s not all corn at this minimalist bakery by Korean chef Eunji Lee, formerly of two-Michelin-star Jungsik: there’s much more patisserie, like the signature flower-shaped Lysée mousse cake with Korean toasted-brown-rice mousse, pecan and praline, and the apple-yuja tart with yuja (the Korean word for yuzu, a citrus fruit) cream, omija (magnolia berry) jelly and apple compote.
Simpler items, like box of shortbread cookies with green tea ganache, or the yuja pound cake with Meyer lemon confit, are also expertly executed by Lee, who trained at Le Meurice, a five-star hotel in Paris. Lee’s desserts are made to travel, and quite a few can last a day or two, so you can bring some home to friends and family.
Be sure to: Ask the helpful staff which custom-made beverage on offer pairs best with your dessert of choice; the Signature Latte, which contains brown-rice-infused milk, works well with the nuttiness of the corn mousse cake.
Courtesy, Patisserie Fouet
15 E. 13th St., Union Square, Manhattan
Slip into the modern elegance of a new Union Square classic. Seat yourself at the bar, where you can watch as beautiful plates of French-Japanese pastries are assembled before your eyes. In the daytime, Patisserie Fouet (fouet means “whisk”) is a café with lunchtime offerings and afternoon tea; at nigh it becomes exclusively a patisserie. Chef Yoshie Shirakawa, who worked at Le Bilboquet and Luxee, brings elements of French technique and Japanese ingredients together for creations like sake azuki pound cake, mochi macarons, shiso fromage blanc mousse, kinako (roasted soybean flour) cookies and a host of other delights. Shirakawa, who trained in the art of Japanese pastry, began to adapt French techniques into her work. Experimental, clever and refined, her handiwork displays her love for ingredients like Japanese tea, which shows up in the yuzu green tea chiffon, green tea tiramisu, green tea cookies and green tea mochi.
Visit on the weekend for the prix-fixe dessert tasting menu, which offers three courses of pastries (the second a “main”). Choose between dishes such as matcha souffle with sakura jelly sauce paired with mango wasabi sorbet, or hojicha (a type of green tea) crème brûlèe paired with pear compote, raspberries and vanilla bean ice cream.
Be sure to: Consult the menu which recommends thoughtful drink pairings for the desserts, like the Suigei Jyunmai Ginjo sake for souffle and Cardenxe Sotol de DesDesierto and soda with the creme brûlée.