Talk And Co

The Japanese Cheesecake Craze

When I stumbled upon the grand opening of Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake two weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined the endless stream of lines that was about to hit Toronto.

History of Uncle Tetsu

History of Uncle Tetsu

Uncle Tetsu is a known name in Asia, with more than 100 stores across Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines. The new store that opened in Toronto on March 18, 2015 (598 Bay St., Bay & Dundas) is actually their first store outside of Asia, and I was lucky enough to chat with the real Uncle Tetsu on opening weekend. He was a very friendly 66-year-old from Hakata, Japan, who—like all the amazing staff—constantly had a smile on his face despite the long 12h+ days (the store is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.!). Uncle Tetsu also took the time to meet and take photos with lots of people in line for the first few days, until he had to leave Canada. A little birdy told me he’ll be back soon though and there are more plans for expansion in the future!

Inside the Toronto store

Inside the Toronto store

Ze cake!

Ze cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the long line outside the store doesn’t grab your attention, the smell of freshly baked cake sure will. And that’s the allure of Uncle Tetsu: all the cakes are baked while you wait, and the air in and around the store always smells wonderful. Every cake is handmade in front of customers and there are no preservatives or additives used.

Although it’s called a cheesecake, the Japanese variety is very different from the American one; it’s a lot lighter and fluffier, similar to an angel food cake. It’s also not nearly as sweet, which is a plus for me, but it may not satisfy those with an intense sweet tooth. They also offer Japanese-inspired flavours like green tea cheesecake, but the Toronto location currently only offers the original one (limited to one per person, $10 per 6-inch cake, taxes included).

Where the cake magic happens

Where the cake magic happens

Mixing the cake batter by hand...literally

Mixing the cake batter by hand…literally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only other product that was available was a cake-like Madeleine cookie with a light honey taste…if you’re lucky. Those only came out of the oven about every 20 minutes and they were usually swooped up by the next few people at the cash. When I was there, they had a buy-three-get-one-free deal, so my friend and I split two Madeleines each. They were good but a little dense and buttery for me, so I preferred the cheesecake. (Speaking of the cheesecake, although it’s hard to resist warm cake right out of the oven, I actually thought Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecakes tasted better when cooled. Weird?)

Whisking the Madeleine batter

Whisking the Madeleine batter

Although delicious, Uncle Tetsu’s bake-while-you-wait model is also the reason for the long lines—there are only three ovens in the small store and each cake needs to be baked for 45 minutes, meaning only 12 cakes can be produced every 15 minutes. And if any cake doesn’t meet their quality standards, it won’t be sold. This may be good for the tastebuds, but not so much for the 2h+ wait time.

I’m looking forward to going back when they have their other products available! And shorter lines. Much shorter lines. (I only waited for about 30 minutes when I went around noon on day three, so I have no complaints!)

Have you jumped in on the Japanese cheesecake craze yet? Any thoughts?

Uncle Tetsu!

Uncle Tetsu!

uncle-tetsu-julia-child

One of the framed quotes in the store. You tell ’em, Julia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. One of my relatives was in Shanghai at the time the Toronto store opened, so I was lucky enough to get some photos of the larger Uncle Tetsu store there. I hope their next GTA store looks like this one! A larger display and a few tables to sit at would make for a much nicer experience, and customers would have the opportunity to try the cakes while they are still fresh.

Uncle Tetsu in Shanghai

Uncle Tetsu in Shanghai

Seating area in Shanghai

Seating area in Shanghai

I'm all about the food, PR, digital marketing and randomness—because what fun is life without a sprinkle of nonsense? If you've got an idea for a new adventure, @thisharriet probably wants to know about it.