Walking through Kyoto last fall, it seemed like every cafe had photos of a pancake tower: these were the hot-ticket snack, in a town where you can get ocean-fresh sashimi 24 hours a day from any 7-11. These weren't your usual Sunday-morning-after-a-sleepover suspects, though: these morsels were unusually tall and puffy looking, more soufflé than cake. Curiosity piqued, we found ourselves on a mission one Friday morning, in line at A Happy Pancake and ready to see what all the fuss was about.
It took 20 minutes to cook our wobbly little steamed cakes, but when they arrived, we understood why they were the talk of the town. Eggy and cloud-like, they're rich and light simultaneously, the perfect creamy, fluffy vessel for toppings sweet or savoury.
Honestly, these pancakes were all I could talk about when I got back, and I've ruined many brunches over the past year lamenting that soufflé pancakes were not on the menu.
Luckily, my whinging must have caught the attention of the restaurant industry, because multiple Japanese pancake houses have been announced to open by the end of the year. The first among them, Fufu Cafe, opened a few weeks back. A pretty, Parisian-inspired 20-seat space in the no-man's land on Broadway between Oak and Granville, the navy panelled walls and marble table tops will make a lovely backdrop for the photogenic dishes on offer.
Fufu shines when it keeps things simple: a classic tower of fluffy pancakes topped with butter and maple syrup or salted, whipped mascarpone. But for the more adventurous, there are plenty of creative alternatives to chose from—order the cakes smothered in matcha cream with mochi on the side, or piled with lemon cream, ice cream and a crispy crème brûlée sugar topping. The bubble tea option, complete with housemade tapioca pearls and an Earl Grey-infused whipped topping, wasn't to my personal taste, but I appreciate that owners (and childhood friends) Vicki Chen and Sienna Gan are using the blank canvas that is the humble pancake as a grounds for experimentation.
Remi Patisserie will provide additional baked goods for those who aren't ready to level up to this superior pancake; coffee from Agro and housemade sparkling fruit drinks round out the drink menu. If I can't live in Kyoto (or, my true dream, live at A Happy Pancake), having this sweet new spot in my neighbourhood is the next best thing.
1266 W Broadway, Vancouver
Opens September 7, 2019