Thursday, May 05, 2016

Fujipan Japanese Bakery, Sydney

I've spent a considerable amount of time in Sydney at this point, about 6 months in total over as many years.  I certainly wouldn't claim to know as much as locals, but, I have really taken the time to explore the culinary scene while there.  My first trip focused on higher end French cuisine, but quickly realized that it just doesn't compare to San Francisco.  On my next trip, I fell in love with the Thai food in Sydney, just so much better than in San Francisco.  I originally stuck with the less authentic places, but soon discovered that the real good eats could be discovered just walking around Thaitown (like the Thai hawker I reviewed last week).

Which is where I discovered Fujipan.  As you can probably guess from the name, it isn't thai, it is ... a Japanese bakery.  You know how much I love baked goods, so it shouldn't surprise you that it caught my eye, particularly as the goods are displayed right in a window to the street, and the aroma of fresh baked bread is impossible to miss.  Fresh items are constantly being brought out, so you know they really are baking continuously throughout the day.  Besides the baked goods, mostly breads, they also offer bottled beverages and ... soft serve ice cream.  A bakery with ice cream?  Um yes.

Fujipan quickly became one of my stops on my way home in the evening, just to pick up "a little something" to enjoy back at the hotel.  I really enjoyed trying the very unique (to me!) items, and would certainly return to find more.

The Space

Out front, Fujipan is just another storefront, albeit one with plenty of goodies lined up in the window, which is of course what drew me in.
So many choices!
The window isn't just for display though.  On the inside, there are signs indicating what each item is, and slidey plastic doors quasi-protecting the items.  The doors were always in a state of disarray, and seemed to be more annoying than do good, but, at least they tried to protect things?

Everything is self-serve, so you grab a tray and a set of tongs at the entrance, and help yourself to what you want.
The shop is small, with a register at the front (cash only!), and baked goods along the front wall and one side wall, plus a table of packaged baked goods in the middle.
Signature Items.
On one wall is a description of some of their signature items, along with drawings.  I visited Fujipan many times, and at least half of these items I never saw.  Seems a bit odd for "signature items"?

The descriptions here were far more verbose than the ones on the cards in front of each item, so it was useful to study this before diving in.
Crazy Treats!
For my first treat, I had a very, very hard time picking.  I wanted the melon pan, after having a good one in Japan once, and trying hard to find a good one in Paris (but failing ... you'll see that review soon).  But there were so many other choices, both sweet and savory.  The doughnuts (filled with red bean, custard, etc) looked great.  And seriously, how ridiculous are the teriyaki dog (fluffy brioche bun, sausage, aioli) or the yakisoba pan (same bun, but actually filled with yakisoba) pictured here?

So much tempting stuff.
Cute Bag!
When you order multiple items, you get a cute little bag to take your goodies away in.  So, protip: order many things (and not just for the bag!).

Baked Goods

Taro Pan. $2.20.
"Sweet bun with taro cream."

I love taro.  I want taro in everything, so, I was thrilled to discover the taro pan.

It was kinda flat looking, a bit sad looking really, but said it was filled with cream and, well, it was taro.  It was a lovely purple on top (ohai taro!), and a bit hard when I picked it up with the tongs, yet soft on the pale bottom.  I can't say it seemed like it was going to be awesome.

But it was.
Taro Pan: Inside.
The bottom, as you can see here, was soft, fluffy, sweet dough.  It was not taro flavored, but was really delicious.

I do not think the top was actually taro flavored either, although it was purple.  It was a bit crispy, sweet, and, well, tasty.

The inside was the taro filling, not really "cream", but, mashed taro, with some chunks too.  It wasn't too sweet, which complimented the sweet bun quite nicely.

Overall, this was great.  It was fluffy, it was crispy, it was creamy.  Lots of textures, and not too sweet.  It totally hit the spot.

My favorite, and I'd get it again in a heartbeat.
Nicky Sausage. $2.50.
"Milk Bun, Fork Fross (sic) & sausage with Original Cream."

On my next visit, I got brave and went for the "Nicky Sausage".  This is a similar item to their signature "Nicky Lawson", a sweet milk bun filled with custard and topped with pork floss.  But, since I was considering this part of my "lunch", I decided adding sausage (protein!) would help justify that classification.

The bun was made up of 3 distinct balls, held together in a triangle shape.
Nicky Sausage: Inside. 
I eagerly broke off one ball, and bit into it.  Yes, there was sausage inside!  Each of the three balls of bread had a chunk of sausage within.

The dough was light, fluffy, and slightly sweet, and really delicious.  I love this style of bread.  The sausage was more like a hot dog, but tasty enough.  The pork floss on top was salty and quite tasty.

I really liked this, and totally understand now how the signature Nicky Lawson makes sense ... cream, fluffy bread, and salty pork floss actually sounds delicious to me.  Without a creamy component, this was actually a bit dry.  So, I did want that cream, although it would be strange with the sausage, so, maybe just some aioli like the teriyaki dog I saw?  Anyway, the Nicky Lawson is definitely on the list for next time.

Ojan however wasn't sold on this one, and didn't know what to make of the pork floss.  He told me that it was "an acquired taste" and he wasn't ready to commit to saying he liked it (or not).

My second favorite of the treats I tried.
Melon Pan. $1.60.
And finally, one day I eventually got the Melon Pan, as it is the item that first drew me in.  The description on the placard read "Sweet bun, Crispy Cream", but the one on the Signature Items sign gave the more informative "A delicate, sweet, soft bun, smothered in deliciously crunchy cookie."

Anyway, the melon pan.  The bread was light, sweet, and fluffy, very good.  The top did have sugar crystals, and the signature melon look, but, it wasn't crispy.  I was really looking forward to the crispy sugar cookie top, and it failed in that department.  Maybe it was just too humid that day?  We did eat it immediately after purchase though.

My third pick.  Ojan said, "it is pretty good".
An Pan. $1.90.
"Sweet bun with Red Bean." is how the placard described it, or, "Fluffy filled with our original redbean Jam which is hand-made in a traditional Japanese method." said the longer description on the sign.

I have a problem with always thinking I like red bean. I'm not sure what it is, but, I always think I like it, and then I don't.  And when I was surrounded by so many red bean items, I couldn't resist getting something with red bean again.  Plus ... protein?

The bun was one of the pre-packaged items, rather than on display in the cases.  I'm not sure why they choose to have some packaged this way.

The top was shiny and much darker than the other items, sprinkled with sesame seeds, both white and black.
An Pan: Inside.
As you can see, inside was a generous amount of red bean.  It contained whole beans and some mashed, and was slightly sweetened.  It was ... red bean.  Oops, I don't really love red bean.

The dough though was really what made it not a winner for me, it wasn't light and fluffy like the melon pan, the Nicky Sausage, or the taro pan.  It wasn't hard, but it just didn't have that doughy lightness that I loved in the others.  My least favorite, and I wouldn't get it, or any of the similar buns with other fillings, again.

Ice Cream

So, in addition to the baked goods, Fujipan also has ice cream.  And not just ice cream, soft serve ice cream!

The ice cream is available in two flavors, matcha or black sesame.  They sell a single size.  And only in a waffle cone.  No toppings.
Black Sesame Ice Cream. $2.90.
One, hot, sticky evening, I headed to Thaitown to pick up dessert.  I was planning to get some variety of pudding, with coconut milk, and all sorts of interesting goodies in it from the Thai dessert cart.  But ... it was hot.  I didn't want sweet, sticky dessert.  I wanted ice cream.

So, I walked right past my intended Thai dessert hawker, and kept on going, a few blocks further, to Fujipan.  Yup, to the bakery.  For ice cream.

Ordering was easy, since I couldn't pick a size, and didn't even have the choice of cup or cone.  Since I didn't want caffeine, black sesame was my only flavor option.

The cone was fine, standard waffle cone, not stale.

The ice cream was fairly icy, not creamy and smooth like I was hoping, but the black sesame flavor was lovely.  They have no toppings, so alas, no sprinkles for me, always an integral part of a soft serve cone.

Overall, this was fairly lackluster.  Standard cone, icy ice cream, but good flavor.  It hit the spot, but I wouldn't go there for ice cream again.  Where would I go for soft serve ice cream in Sydney?  Easy: Aqua S.
Fujipan Japanese Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Waffling Leftovers: Pancakes

By now, you are quite familiar with my Waffling Leftovers series.  I've shown you how to transform your leftover Italian cuisine (pizza, lasagna, and more), your casseroles (mac and cheese, tuna noodle, etc), and your side dishes (mashed potatoes, cheesy grits, yadda yadda).

Now, it is time to turn attention to a totally different type of cuisine: breakfast.  Perhaps the most natural fit for my waffle maker, since, well, isn't breakfast when most people use their waffle maker?  But of course, I'm not going to make a waffle batter, I'm going to take a leftover, and just reheat it in my waffle make.

So, Leftover Pancakes: Will it Waffle? Sure ... but there are better ways to reheat pancakes.
The Original: IHOP Harvest Grain N' Nut Pancake.
My starting point was an IHOP Harvest Grain N' Nut pancake.  You know how much I love those things, so I started experimenting with not eating my entire giant stack while at IHOP, and bringing some home to enjoy later.

It turns out, pancakes freeze and reheat very well.  Just wrap them in foil, bring them up to temperature in the toaster oven that way, and finish off with the foil removed to crisp them up a bit.  Totally fine.  But I thought I could do better with my waffle iron.
No mess with this one!
I started with just half, in case it was disaster, so I could fall back on my standard reheating technique.

Unlike most things I've waffled, this was simple, and there was no mess.  No cheese oozing out, no falling apart.  Just a pancake.  In a waffle iron.
Waffled Pancake + Honey Butter + Whipped Cream.
It was ... fine.

It did reheat perfectly well this way.  It was easier even than my standard foil-wrapped and then toasted technique.  But it wasn't awesome, although in part I blame the pancake itself.  I think it would work better with a much fluffier pancake, as the thin style just made this too crispy for my liking.

I did see the appeal in creating the waffle pockets in the pancake though.  Not pictured is the warm maple syrup I also added, and it was fun to pour it directly into the holes (as I do with waffles anyway).  I guess I'm just not sure what this buys you over just a waffle, or just a pancake, besides being a really easy way to reheat a pancake.

I'm more a fan of waffling leftovers where the item is completely transformed by waffling, this didn't enhance it in any way, but, it did work.  So, quasi-success?

Monday, May 02, 2016

Breakfast @ Super Duper Burger

Super Duper Burger is obviously known for, well, the burgers.  But, I went for breakfast.  And it was great.

I'll rewind a bit.  Super Duper is a relatively small chain, with 6 locations in SF and a few in the surrounding areas.  I remember when the first one opened, and I thought, "oh, just another cheap burger place".  I glanced at the menu, and wasn't really inspired to visit.  They only have regular fries, no fun sides like sweet potato fries or onion rings (random aside: it is even on their FAQ about why they don't have sweet potato fries, so, clearly, I'm not the only one who wishes they did!).  They have basic beef, veggie, or chicken burgers.  And not much more.  Of course, the one thing that did catch my eye is the dessert, as they offer soft serve ice cream.  Yes, soft serve ICE CREAM.  I grew up in the land of soft serve, and really, really miss it in San Francisco.  Given that it is Straus Family Creamery organic ice cream, I imagine it is quite a bit better than the only other soft serve ice cream I know in town: McDonald's.

Super Duper's slogan, er, "promise" is "Fast food burgers.  Slow food values."  This translates into a fast-casual establishment, with decently fast food preparation, reasonable prices, and quality ingredients.  Everything is made to order.   The beef is humanely-raised, 100% vegetarian-fed and ground fresh daily (Niman Ranch).  The buns are made by a local bakery.  The pickles are housemade ... and unlimited!

But anyway.  I still have never been to Super Duper to try a burger, nor to try the fries, nor to get an ice cream cone (which, by the way, they offer with chocolate dip too!).  I went for breakfast.

Let's just say ... I was impressed.  As a fast-casual establishment I expected something more like McDonald's, or perhaps Starbucks or Panera.  But no, Super Duper is much higher quality, in terms of product and preparation.  And seriously, how many other fast casual places serve Four Barrel coffee and bake their own donuts?

The Space

Front Counter
The front of the store has two registers and menu boards with the main menu.  You order at the register, and either take a buzzer or just give your name (seemingly depending on how busy it is?)

The kitchen is to the side with an open pass.  My order was ready in less than 5 minutes, and my name called out from this area.
Condiments, Drinks, PICKLES!
On one the side is a self-serve soda fountain, napkins, salt, pepper, and basic condiments to go along with the burgers (ketchup and mustard), and ...  house made pickle spears.

All you can eat pickles?  Complimentary?  ZOMG.

On the other side is the self-serve coffee with sugar and creamer, along with water.
The decor is pretty hard to describe.  Industrial feeling flooring, but brick walls.  Metal chairs and stools, but carved wood tables.  There are booths, regular tables, and large communal tables inside, and more seating outside.  At lunchtime, there is always a line.
Outdoor Seating.
Super Duper is also a rare find in San Francisco, with a decent amount of outdoor seating on the sidewalk.  During the week, this area is always full.

The Food

Super Duper Burger is, at its core, a burger place.  The main menu is burgers, and standard things that go along with burgers like fries and shakes (and of course chicken sandwiches and veggie burgers for your non-beef eating friends).  But I was there for breakfast.  The lunch/dinner menu isn't large, but the breakfast menu is even smaller.  They offer two things: breakfast egg sandwiches and donuts.

The standard breakfast at Super Duper is the "Mini Breakfast", for $6 ($5.50 without cheese).  It consists of a egg and cheese sandwich on an english muffin, a mini donut, and a small coffee.  Now, to me, a full english muffin egg and cheese sandwich is a full size breakfast, so, how you can add on a donut and call it a "mini" breakfast is beyond me.  But, hey, why not?

For $2 more, you can also upgrade to the "Super Combo".  This turns your small coffee into a large (totally reasonable), adds your choice of bacon, sausage, or avocado to your sandwich (again, reasonable), and ... turns the single donut into 3 donuts!  I hope that means you are supposed to share with friends.  Even though they are mini donuts, a full egg sandwich (with meat) and three donuts seems a bit ... ambitious for an everyday breakfast.  Anyway.

Coffee is self-serve, and Four Barrel.  I applaud them for offering decent coffee and partnering with a local roaster.
Breakfast Sandwich: Egg & Cheese.
"Super Duper’s breakfast sandwiches are made using farm-fresh organic eggs, cheddar."

As I mentioned you can also opt to upgrade to include sausage, bacon, or avocado.  I stuck with the basic egg and cheese, although, I do love a good sausage patty!

Since I got my order to-go, it came packaged in a foil bag (with a paper wrapper around it), all compostable.  The foil really did work wonders to keep the heat in, although I opened my bag and ate it as soon as I was a few steps out the door.  I couldn't wait!
Breakfast Sandwich: Inside.
I was really impressed with my breakfast sandwich the moment I opened it up.  It was clearly made to order, nothing like the pre-made and magically heated up offerings from Starbucks.

The english muffin was toasty on the outside, with a slightly crispness, and not at all burnt.  One point for that.

The cheese was well melted, it was good quality flavorful sharp cheddar, there was plenty of it.  More points.

And the egg?  Swoon.  This was no microwaved egg patty.  Remember all the different "egg" options I tried at Starbucks?  Yeah, this was not that.  This was, gasp, a real egg.  Fried.  It was perfectly cooked, not rubbery, and the center yolk was the right level of gooey and oozed out once I got to it.  Swoon.

I'm really not a huge egg fan, nor english muffin fan, but, I'm still somewhat in disbelief at how nicely done this was.  Quality ingredients, freshly prepared, what a concept.  I'd certainly get it again if I were craving an egg sandwich.  Next time I'd need to try the sausage too.
Donut Bag!
Donuts are available in 3 flavors: vanilla glazed, chocolate glazed, and cinnamon sugar coated.  I opted for the vanilla glaze.  My donut came in a really cute little paper bag that said "Donuts" on it.
Mini Vanilla Glazed Donut.
"We make our donuts fresh each morning using a super-secret recipe and an old-fashioned donut machine. They come dressed in a dusting of sugar or a sugar glaze."

I may have thought that a full egg sandwich and a donut was a bit sizable for a regular work day breakfast, but, there is something pretty fun about having a "dessert" waiting for you as part of your breakfast.  And, you know how much I love donuts.

The donuts looked pretty simple, just small, standard cake donuts, but, wow, this was a great donut.  It was clearly quite fresh (still warm even!).  It was a fairly dense donut, and it was a little greasy, in the fried dough sorta way (although it was a dense cake style not a lighter raised dough).  It was slightly crispy on the outside, but very moist inside.  It had a nice tang to the base flavor.  As for my topping choice, I really liked the sweet glaze.   I'm pretty sure the cinnamon and sugar would be excellent too.

The mini size was actually perfect, it made it not feel too indulgent.  An everyday donut if you will.

I really enjoyed this, and would certainly get another.

In addition to being sold as part of the combo breakfast, donuts are sold individually for $0.75 each, 3 for $2, or a dozen for $8, really an incredible value.
Mini Vanilla Glazed Donut.
And ... I had another.

Again, a nice donut.  A greasier, denser style, but not in a bad way exactly.  Tons of very sweet vanilla glaze on top.  This one wasn't warm, so not quite as good as the first I had, but I did enjoy it with my coffee, and, the size really is perfect.
Super Duper Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato