Pastries from Lysée, Woman Wong, and 99.
Photograph: Hugo Yu

After I first got here to New York, my mom and I went to Koryodang, a sharply lit French-ish Korean bakery proper within the thick of Koreatown on thirty second Avenue. It was a sleeker, extra trendy, extra New York model of the cafés we’d go to within the then-nascent Korean pockets round Atlanta within the ’90s. The pastries typically appeared like impressions of their European counterparts: a Danish wrapped round a sizzling canine; anpan, candy buns full of pink bean; and a private favourite referred to as mammoth bread, an rectangular disc sandwiching a layer of recent cream with a crust of streusel on prime. The desserts registered the same cognitive dissonance for an Entenmann’s child: light-weight, barely-there sponges with an ethereal cream. They have been, within the highest praise, not too candy.

Like Ok-pop, Korean bakeries symbolize the ironic instability of authenticity: Patisserie first arrived in Korea by means of Japan by means of Europe, the place it then tailored to the nationwide palate earlier than heading again west. Café tradition, together with superb eating, has turn out to be one a part of a rising portfolio of Korean delicate energy overseas, and the funniest instance of this globalized circuit of style is when Paris Baguette, the company Korean megachain, opened its first location in Paris in 2014, a lot to the chagrin of locals, proper down the road from the Louvre.

Koryodang was a part of a small however rising wave of Asian bakeries: Taipan, Fay Da, Woman M, HARBS, and company megachains like Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours — the latter of which might later take over Koryodang’s house on thirty second Avenue. Collectively, they established the vernacular of Asian desserts in New York. Black sesame, mango, and inexperienced tea are mainstays, with ube, pandan, aloe, calamansi, and durian increasing the flavour palette. The desserts are sometimes extra cream than sponge, that are already gossamery of their structure. As a substitute of buttercream frosting, Asian desserts have a tendency towards whipped cream, mousses, and jellies. The desserts are delicate and exact, fancy and fanciful with an aesthetic that’s so cute they activate an inside squeal much like seeing a miniature pony or Totoro: so kawaiiiii.

Within the vein of so-cute-you-could-die is Gong Gan, a “Ok-dessert bar” in Flushing that has enchanted Asian church ladies and the influencer crowd with its mossy psychedelic-mushroom forests on prime of their black-tea cheesecake. On a Saturday afternoon, I ventured out with a bunch of pals to its white, cavelike house in Queens. There was a protracted line and sheer pandemonium. Not one of the kaleidoscopic fungi desserts have been accessible (and it’s unclear learn how to get one within the first place), however there was one we may admire sitting on a white pedestal in the midst of the shop. We acquired a number of the croissants, that are nonetheless TikTok-friendly with recent cream puffing out like a cloudburst. They tasted like nothing — not candy, not savory — as in the event that they have been generated by dessert AI. We watched a desk of ladies take pictures of their pastries with a hoop mild. They by no means took a chew whereas we have been there, as in the event that they knew what the purpose of this endeavor was.

Nonetheless, there’s no must sacrifice style for magnificence. Take Lysée, a Korean café in Flatiron by Eunji Lee who describes her work as “edible artwork.” (In a seemingly whole act of seriousness, a second-floor house labeled “the gallery” is a show of its desserts and pastries.) I met up with my good friend Isabel for afternoon tea, the place I acquired an earthy burdock tea and essentially the most photogenic pastry of 2023, a cake the place corn mousse has been sculpted into yellow kernels with mild brushstrokes of white chocolate tinted inexperienced performing because the husk. They’ve forgone the sponge totally; as an alternative, a sliver of sablé undergirds what is actually a mound of cream with the flavour of roasted-corn-silk tea. Its namesake cake, the Lysée, was extra satisfying, with layers of a toasted brown-rice mousse, salty praline, and a crunchy pecan and walnut cookie. The desserts have been surprisingly difficult, as if the pleasure of sugar have been too apparent. Perhaps the perfect was the mille-feuille, a log cabin of puff pastry, vanilla cream, and caramel — candy and easy.

I additionally made a degree to examine in on some members of Asian patisserie’s older wave: The signature mille-crêpe cake with “a minimum of 20 layers” at Woman M remains to be successful; a slight caramel tan hides quiveringly skinny crêpes which might be visually distinct and but soften below the strain of a fork. HARBS in Chelsea may secretly be among the finest locations to quietly savor a e book alongside a slice of sakura cake and a pot of tea. Nonetheless glorious are two of my standby Japanese outlets: Burrow in Dumbo and Patisserie Tomoko in Williamsburg. Tomoko is extra readily accessible, providing a $28 three-course dessert menu alongside a takeout counter at its horseshoe-shaped bar. The green-tea tiramisu cake is vivid and verdant, and the yuzu mousse tastes like a citrus cloud. Alternatively, Burrow is extra idiosyncratic and cussed: Because the pandemic, it’s lowered its schedule to 4 hours a day (“10 to 2ish”) for 4 days of the week (no weekends!) in an incredible act of boundary-setting. It’s inconceivable to know what it’ll provide on any given day, and but regardless of, or maybe due to its elusiveness, it evokes a eager devotion. No matter you get will likely be good — perhaps a candy potato cake with white-chocolate mousse sooner or later or a pear and chestnut cake with translucent squares of pear jelly on one other.

I’m additionally a fan of Woman Wong, a patisserie that makes a speciality of Southeast Asian pastries by Malaysian-born husband-and-wife duo Seleste Tan and Mogan Anthony, who lived in Singapore earlier than shifting to New York. They’re rightly identified for his or her kuih, rectangular slices of cake in a rainbow of colours and flavors of pandan, coconut, sticky rice, and palm sugar. What they do with pandan — which they import from Thailand and which grew to become a private obsession of mine ever since I first had it on the Chinatown Ice Cream Manufacturing facility — makes my blood sugar flutter. The pandan royaltine cake is as if mild inexperienced have been a taste: a delicate celadon-hued mousse with a crisp pistachio feuilletine. However for an much more acute pandan-and-coconut expertise, their onde kaya roll cake sends me over the sting.

Probably the most thrilling afternoons, although, was throughout a weekend pop-up service at Rhodora with Mina Park, who runs a baking mission referred to as 99 that has acquired a passionate following, notably after she labored with Ha’s Đặc Biệt. (She’ll be doing an extended run quickly — a six-month residency beginning in July — that she calls a trial run for her “fantasy café.”) A line began to type earlier than the 11 a.m. opening for the strawberry-milk mousse cake, banana-milk purin, mocha-chestnut meringue, and milk-tea profiteroles dotted with tapioca pearls. Her desserts play within the sandbox of Asian American childhood: massive sheet desserts fabricated from recent cream relatively than the normal buttercream; star-shaped mousse desserts with Harmony grape jelly and peeled Kyoho grapes to approximate the flavour and really feel of Hello-Chew. They’re excessive on nostalgia, neat as a pin, and simply candy sufficient.

This publish has been corrected to point out that the house owners of Woman Wong have been born in Malaysia, not Singapore.

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