Japan has given us yet another thing to rave about (and queue up for) and this time, it takes the form of HATTENDO Cafe, which recently opened at Tanjong Pagar Centre. Founded in 1933 in Mihara, Japan, the reputation of this cafe precedes it, being famous for one thing: Cream buns.
Situated across from the Japan Rail Cafe, HATTENDO Cafe will be hard to miss and not just because of the bright and inviting signage; the first thing you’ll notice is the queue. I got there at 10am (opening time) and there was already a line of eager beavers.
Most people queue to get a takeaway but if you have a bit of time to spare, definitely sit down for a cup of coffee and a cream bun in the tastefully decorated space.
A small window allows you a glimpse into how the cream buns are made, and it was quite entrancing watching the bakers work so meticulously.
It’s clear that this is one brand that takes its bakes seriously, and HATTENDO Cafe proudly claims that no one else can make the cream buns like they do.
The trick is in achieving the airiness of the dough in an even bake, and then filling the buns with a light custard cream.
Like the BAKE Hokkaido Cheese Tarts craze, I needed to understand the hype of these cream buns and thus proceeded to patiently queue.
There are five flavours to choose from: Matcha, Chocolate, Custard, Azuki and Cream ($2.50 each). I naturally bought one of each but if you feel like you simply can’t commit, opt for one cream bun + one drink for $5.
The original flavours are the custard and cream, which are easily confused because they look almost identical to one another. The consistency in the soft buns is clearly evident, and the ratio of bun to cream is exactly what it should be.
No one wants to bite into a cream bun that’s filled with only half a teaspoon’s worth and HATTENDO Cafe is certainly not scrimping in that department. Opt for the lighter Cream flavour if this is your first cream bun, but seasoned Japanese confectionary lovers will surely rave about the Custard flavour instead.
It wouldn’t be a Japanese snack if there wasn’t a Matcha flavour, and this filling is one of the milder Matcha versions that I’ve encountered.
Being a green tea lover, I thought the actual Matcha taste could have been stronger, but I guess this flavour intensity makes it appealing to more people (and makes you go back for seconds and thirds).
My favourite of the lot was the Chocolate, and I’m probably biased. Add chocolate to anything and I’m sold. In all seriousness though, you can definitely tell that they haven’t compromised on the quality of the chocolate used. This, is what makes all the difference.
It’s not overly sweet even when combined with the fresh cream, making this a nice complement to a hot cuppa.
The Azuki (or red bean) flavour is one that I think suits our local palate and would certainly be a favourite. I’d actually liken it to our local red bean ice cream sandwich, minus the icy part of course.
I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the flavours, so do yourself a favour and just get a box of all five. The fresh cream buns are best eaten then and there, but the cafe does provide an ice pack in the box to help them last that bit longer.
If you’re not a fan of cream buns or fancy a more substantial lunch alongside them, try one of HATTENDO Cafe’s Mason Jar Salads ($7). Choose from Green, Vitamin and Stamina and then pick a dressing (Asian Sesame, Miso Ginger, Caesar or Non-oil Ajioso).
Don’t forget to try some of the HATTENDO homemade croutons (Plain, Garlic or Cheese), which are unlimited by the way. So pile them on!
I ordered the Stamina, which came with chunks of avocado. You can also choose to add salmon ($5) or chicken ($3) for an even more filling lunch.
While the salad, dressing and croutons were delicious, I thought it was a bit gimmicky to serve it in a mason jar since a) I wasn’t allowed to bring the jar home and b) if you’re getting the salad as a takeaway, it would be served to you in a box instead.
If you’re going for this option, obviously choose to dine in then so you can actually shake it up in the jar. All in all, the queue was worth it for the light and fluffy cream buns which are a testament to the quality and consistency that HATTENDO Cafe emphasises.
Queue early to avoid disappointment!
Expected damage: $2.50 – $15 per pax