Singaporeans are nothing if not wildly enthusiastic for every new thing to hit their shores. Sometimes it seems as though a brand new restaurant, a visiting act or a product launch needs only to have the briefest mention in the local press for lines to form and tickets to sell out.
A case in point is the massive popularity of Bake, a Japanese cake shop which started in Hokkaido five years ago using the dairy products for which that northern island is well known. There are now 9 stores in Japan, and others have popped up in Seoul, Bangkok, Hong Kong and – most recently – Singapore.
Except you would be lucky to get anywhere near this tiny outlet, which is tucked among the other food stalls in the basement of ION Orchard. That is, without an early start, tactical planning and a great deal of patience. The queue there every day runs at 2 hours minimum, and is organised with ropes, security staff and helpful notices, in a nearby open space to avoid completely blocking the mall.
Customers are limited to buying 12 tarts at a time, and the kitchen staff are clearly working at full stretch to keep the counter stocked with this single item that is so much in demand. Rumour has it that the tarts are flown in from Japan once a fortnight, then have to be rationed out on a daily basis. So once they’re gone, they’re gone… please come back tomorrow!
I had a look at the queue late one afternoon, wondering if it might have diminished sufficiently to make it worth giving a try. No such luck. But I was delighted later in the week, on a quick trip to Hong Kong, to stumble upon the branch in Causeway Bay.
As I had forgotten all about it, I walked right past before it hit me that I recognised the logo and the tarts. There was no queue… not a single person anywhere near but me, so obviously I had to seize the opportunity!
It was a nice treat, light and fluffy with a hint of lemon, and a good crunch to the twice baked pastry shell. The tarts are apparently made using three types of cream cheese, mild Hakodate, the fuller flavoured Betsukai, plus some salty French cheese to balance out the sweetness.
I ate mine on the spot, but they can apparently be warmed up again quite successfully at home, or even eaten straight from the freezer a bit like ice cream. S$3.50 per tart, which is quite a lot for such a small item, but I was glad to have tried one and may even buy more once the craze has died down.
Above left – no queue at all in Hong Kong… above right, line disappearing into the distance in Singapore…