Recently, we’ve noticed a host of pop-ups and restaurants serving Asian-inflected sweet toasts and breakfast-inspired desserts. In the East Bay, those include tempting menu items like jiggly Japanese-style soufflé pancakes, Southeast Asian pandan and coconut-flavored toast, and waffles made with rice flour. Some of these sweets are served in the morning, some as desserts, but many are available throughout the day.
The Asian toast, pancake and waffle trend isn’t brand new to the area. For years, we’ve enjoyed Hong Kong-style egg waffles and more recently, pandan and durian waffles in Oakland Chinatown. And three years ago, chef Nora Haron brought kaya toast to a new level at now-closed Drip Line in West Oakland. (She continues to make pastries for her FYUB pop-up and is working on an Asian-inspired brunch menu at Local Kitchen in San Francisco.) Still, enough new spots have sprung up recently that are making some great new versions of these sweet, Asian-inspired treats that we felt compelled to make a list. Enjoy!
Mango Sticky Rice Toast at U :Dessert Story
Recently opened U :Dessert Story in Berkeley — the third outpost of the San Francisco Asian dessert restaurant from Steven Choi — is an Instagram influencer’s dream. Its picture-perfect sweets from Korea, Japan, Thailand and beyond have attracted crowds; lines are often out the door, especially on weekends. For its Mango Sticky Rice Toast ($15), cubes of fluffy white bread are toasted then served in a bread bowl with chunks of fresh mango, mango ice cream and whipped cream, with honey drizzle and a mint leaf to top it off. The bread bowl is accompanied by a small dish of sticky rice, plus condensed milk and a delicious mango puree for dipping the chunks of bread. The toast is light and delicious, and the mango puree and sticky rice accompaniments are perfectly done. The dish is both picture-worthy and delicious. U :Dessert Story, 1849 Shattuck Ave. (at Hearst Avenue), Berkeley
Japanese-style Soufflé Pancakes at 310 Eatery
“Fuwa fuwa pankeki,” or jiggly Japanese-style soufflé pancakes, have arrived in the East Bay at American and Asian-fusion diner 310 Eatery in Albany, which debuted its version of the pancakes last November. The pancakes ($14) are light, fluffy and tall — the height coming from egg whites whipped into a meringue and added into the batter. 310 Eatery tops the stack with powdered sugar and dots the plate with a few fresh berries. Whipped cream and two housemade sauces — a strawberry compote and custard — accompany the pancakes on the side for diners to mix and match to their taste. The Japanese-style pancakes, which come with coffee or tea, are available on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays between 3-6 p.m. 310 Eatery, 747 San Pablo Ave., (between Washington and Portland avenues), Albany
Pandan French Toast at Saucy Oakland
Tony Ngo and Jenni Nguyen’s North Oakland pan-Asian restaurant Saucy Oakland serves brunch once a month. Nguyen, who creates most of the brunch menu, has perfected a pandan French Toast, her take on pandan waffles, a Vietnamese street food. Pandan is a green, palm-like leaf that is fragrant and often used in Southeast Asian desserts. Saucy’s dish has a subtle pandan sweet flavor, coconut milk, and a layer of cream cheese slathered between two pieces of toast. The pandan French toast is $14 and includes two eggs and two pieces of bacon. Saucy has been serving brunch on the last Sunday of every month, but it’s best to check the website for upcoming brunch dates. The restaurant is currently taking reservations for its next brunch service, March 29. Saucy Oakland, 3932 Telegraph Ave. (near 40th Street), Oakland
Throwback to Thailand honey toast at Lucky Bird
This new Thai restaurant in downtown Berkeley serves a variety of sweet Asian dessert dishes. One of the these is a masterpiece called the “Throwback to Thailand” ($14), a crunchy, buttery honey toast with pandan custard, foi thong (fragrant and sweet egg yolk shavings), and multicolored bua loi, which is similar to boba, but made with cassava flour. Lucky Bird’s foi thong and boba are made in-house, and the sweet dish is perfect for sharing. Lucky Bird, 1926 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
Seasonal mochi waffles at Third Culture Bakery
Home of the mochi muffin and mochi donuts, Third Culture Bakery also serves mochi waffles at its Berkeley showroom. Waffle flavors change regularly, but they are always creative and inspiring. Similar to Third Culture’s muffins and donuts, the waffles utilize mochiko flour as a base, with additional toppings to add that wow factor and is filling enough for a meal. Recently, the bakery showroom offered a black sesame waffle topped with black sesame whipped cream for $9.75. Third Culture imports its black sesame seeds from Japan, then mills the seeds into a paste in-house. The waffle is topped with sliced bananas, honey, cacao nibs and a touch of sea salt. Mochi waffles are served from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Third Culture Bakery, 2701 Eighth St. (at Carleton Street), Berkeley