For almost a year now, my friend Euna and I have been meeting up in New York City to embark on grand food adventures (like this one, this one, or this one – remember these?). I guess you could say it’s almost become a tradition of sorts, and one that we’ve continued even after we graduated from high school and went to different colleges. Every break, we would set aside time to meet up with each other in the city for a glorious foodfest. And this spring break was no different.
Our pig-out locale of choice this time around?
But I’m getting to ahead of myself; I should give you guys a background of our food destination, shouldn’t I? Yes, yes I should.
So. When we’re planning our eating tours, this is usually how it goes down:
Although we’re both extreme food nerds (we both procrastinate by going on Yelp, checking out restaurant reviews, looking at food blogs… you know, the usual foodie tomfoolery), since Euna currently goes to NYU, she’s able to do some actual, on-site reconnoitering. So although we both come up with ideas about where we should eat at, Euna (with her vast NYC food scene knowledge) usually decides where we should go, based on price, convenience, and location.
It was a little different this time around.
For anyone who doesn’t know, I have a love for Asian-flavored desserts that burns like a thousand suns. I particularly love black sesame, although red bean and green tea all have a special soft spot in my heart.
So when I read about Kyotofu, I knew that this place just HAD to be our next food destination. It wasn’t a desire, it was a NEED.
Like it’s name suggests, Kyotofu is a small dessert bar that serves heavily Japanese-influenced foods (although there are a few tweaks here and there to modernize them and make them more suitable to an American palate). And the best part of all is that they specialize in tofu desserts. That’s right, tofu.
But more on that in a little bit.
Notice how Kyotofu is a dessert bar AND a bakery. The front part of the store is dedicated mainly to a drink bar, a kitchen, and a small display where they sell many of their dessert pre-packaged and ready to satisfy your soy-based needs on-the-go.
But Euna and I didn’t want no petite dessert bites; we were here for an actual MEAL. So after waiting for a bit (we arrived there before the restaurant actually opened), we were ushered into the back dining area.
And because we had gotten there so early, we were able to see one of the workers actually packaging boxes of green tea goodness.
After we sat down, we were soon handed the winter lunch menu (it changes a couple time a year to better show case seasonal ingredients), which we perused at our leisure.
Because Kyotofu specializes in desserts, we wanted to split one savory item from the menu as our entrée, while ordering 2 sweet dishes (a dessert for each of us). And because we wanted MAXIMUM VARIETAGE, we ordered the lunch omakase (a savory bunch of stuffs), the dessert omakase, and the bakery assortment (2 sets of sweet stuffs).
The first thing to come out was our appetizer, a Japanese pumpkin soup.
Savory and warm, with hints of sweetness and spice, this was a perfect way to escape the cold drizzle outside and get ready for the delicious meal that was to come. Warm yummy in the tummy, this was.
Next, the waitress plopped down a bento box o’ goodies in front of us.
See what I mean by variety? I love omakases – you’re given so many options and they give you the highest flavor in ratio to stomach room. Now that’s smart eatin’.
So going clockwise and starting from the upper left hand compartment:
This was probably the best thing in the bento box; fatty pieces of sauced eel wrapped in buttery, flaky phyllo dough that shattered when you bit into it. It was salty yet sweet from the teriyaki sauce and the (I think) yuzu drizzle on top gave it a lemony, citrus note that foiled the oily fish perfectly.
Like I mentioned before in my last post, I gave up meat for Lent so I wasn’t able to enjoy any of the sausages. Euna and I both wished the sausages came out octopus-shaped, because that would’ve made them about a million times better. The pickles were pretty good though; I’m not a huge fan of Japanese pickles (kimchi obviously being my preferred sour vegetable dish) but these were all right. Tart, sweet, and just the little bit salty, but nicer to look at than to eat.
Looking at these 4 petite rounds o’ chicken, I expected them to be dry and tough (as so many meatballs are). But these were surprising light and flavorful, bursting with chicken juices without being too heavy.
And this was… rice. Pretty bland on its own, but the dried shiso powder on top gave it a salty-sour note, and it provided a pretty good backdrop to some of the other saltier bites. The little white dome to the right was actually the house-made tofu; it looks jiggly doesn’t it? Don’t you wanna go and do this?
Well that’s exactly what we did. The soft tofu was super-silky, gliding on your tongue with just a hint of soy flavor. Yum…
To be honest, none of the items in the omakase were AMAZINGLY delicious. But maybe that’s because I was so looking forward to dessert that I felt like our main course couldn’t compare.
Once we finished our savory course, the waitress whisked away the near-empty bento box and brought out…
THE DESSERT COURSES.
They’re… beautiful… Delicate pastry masterpieces, artfully arranged on minimalist white plates. I couldn’t wait to dive in, but first, we had to do this:
Once all our pictures were taken, we started nibbling away at each delicious dessert.
On the dessert omakase:
Rich and chocolately, the cupcake was just sweet enough, tempered by the earthy, saltiness of the miso. e quenelle of red bean cream with cacao nib wasn’t really necessary, but it did add a separate layer of flavor and sweet creaminess. The caramel was divine, and the Early Grey tuile was a deliciously crispy bit of of bergamot essence.
Can you see how soft and gooey it is in the middle? It was almost like a molten chocolate cake, but not as liquidy. I’d say that it was practically fudge-like in the center. Gosh, was this delicious.
This little shot glass of white and dark brown is Kyotofu’s signature dessert. The bottom white part is their house-made tofu, same as the one in the bento box, but sweeter. The dark layer on top is a Japanese sugar syrup, a sweet yet strangely appealing bitter liquid note.
I know when you think of “syrup,” you think of a thick, viscous liquid, but the kuromitsu was almost water-thin. The spoonfuls of tofu I put into my mouth had the barest skin of syrup, and each bite was light and bittersweet, practically dissolving on my tongue.
Can it get better than this? A crackly, burnt-sugar top that cracks open to reveal a creamy, green tea custard underneath.
Matcha is usually bitter, so although this brulee had really prominent green tea notes, it was almost a little too sweet (I tend to find crème brulees a little overwhelming). But because it was such a small portion, and we were sharing it, I was able to savor every luxurious bite that transported me to a green tea and caramel-laced heaven.
Awww, aren’t they cute? Like little green tea lollipops. Although they were called chocolates, I could barely detect any cocoa flavor; probably because they used white chocolate and infused it with matcha.
Green tea was the most stand-outish flavor, with just a hint of lingering chocolate at the end of each bite. The chocolatiest thing about this dessert was its texture – it had the same rich, melt-in-your-mouth feel that makes chocolate so addicting.
Euna and I both agreed that this didn’t have much sweet potato flavor; it was just a mild, sweet cake with a light crumb. It was more of a vehicle, one that the delicious, crunchy pecans rode on their journey into my stomach :D.
What’s okara you ask? It’s the pulpy stuff left over from making tofu when you strain the ground soybeans. My mom uses it to make a Korean stew, but here the genius Kyotofu incorporated it into a chocolate chip cookie, giving it a slightly nutty, roasty taste. Yay for less waste!
These macarons were itty-bitty, just slightly larger than my thumbnail. I’ve never had a real macaron before, so I can’t be too judgmental with these. They had a light, crisp outside that gave to a chewier inside, with a chocolate ganache in between. They were so small, and gone too, too soon.
And the other half of the bakery sampler were the same as dessert omakase: the miso chocolate cake and green tea chocolates.
That was a ridiculous amount of food, wasn’t it? Even considering that the portions were tiny (these were sampler dishes, after all), there was just so many of them. By the end we were both SO full and about to lapse into pastry and sugar-induced comas. We asked for the check, and along with it came 2 more little flower-shaped bites.
They look innocent, don’t they? Like they should be airy and light. But these were surprisingly buttery, with a roasty taste from the genmai (roasted brown rice – makes sense, doesn’t it?). Luckily they were so small, or Euna and I might have both burst then and there.
After paying and walking (staggering?) out into the bakery area, this sign happened to catch my eye:
SOY MILK SOFT SERVE? IN BLACK SESAME AND MATCHA FLAVORS? OMGOMGOMGOMG.
Could you just imagine the dilemma I was facing? I felt like I was actually about to pop, but right in front of my face were my two most FAVORITEST dessert flavors, in my FAVORITE form of ice cream, made out of my FAVORITE drink (other than water). What’s a girl to do? Have you ever face a quandary liked this???
But I resisted. THAT’S RIGHT. Even I was amazed by the strength of my sheer willpower. I think my tastebuds were crying as I resolutely walked past the sign and out the door.
So after Euna and I said our goodbyes (we won’t be seeing each other until May! T_T), I walked up to Columbus Circle to visit Whole Foods because my previous appointment had been cancelled. Well, it turned out I went there for no reason because they didn’t have the thing I was looking for (buuuuuut I won’t go into that). So as I made my way back down to Port Authority, I passed by 48th Street again.
And I heard it.
Heard what, you ask?
THE SIREN SONG OF THE BLACK SESAME AND MATCHA SOFT SERVE THAT WAS CALLING MY NAAMMMEEE.
So I broke down and got it.
But really, how can you possibly resist that? It’s a thing of beauty..
A couple of scoops and many “MMMM”s later…
This was SO delicious, and totally worth the walk back. Like everything else at Kyotofu, it had really true flavors, and the matcha and black sesame came through really well. I alternated between scoops of each flavor, savoring just how GOOD it was before they all got mixed up together toward the bottom. It was creamy, but not as creamy as an ice cream would be; because it was made from soy milk, it had just the slightest bit of the sorbet-ish texture, and a slight taste of soy milk at the end of each bite. The mochi was not as chewy as a regular mochi should be, but more jello-ey instead; it was a little weird, but not in a bad way.
So. There you have it; my epic food journey through Kyotofu’s menu.
I hope you guys didn’t get too full (or bored) with me walking through every single thing we ate. It really was a LOT of food.
But in my opinion, it was worth every bite and penny. If you’re into Asian sweets with a modern twist, Kyotofu is a New York City must-visit; I feel like it’s kind of geared toward girls, but manly guys are welcome to indulge in black sesame and green tea goodness too :)
705 9th Avenue (between 48th and 49th St.)
New York, NY 10019
P.S. I’m back at school (GOODBYE MOM’S FOOD AND COMFORTABLE HOMEE!), so the posts are going to coming along slower now. But please bear with me! I’ve got so many good mom-made foods left to blog about, and I can’t wait to sure them with you all. And a change of pace is good sometimes, right? RIGHT!