I recently checked in on 9 Rabbits Bakery and Boba House, a little over a year after its opening and over six months since I wrote my Asian treats round-up last winter. Grace Koo, an accomplished pastry chef, was on a star path then, and she has very quietly gotten even better.
The adorable coffee shop with its tranquil atmosphere, and lines that wax and wane organically, feels even brighter and more spacious, with expanded room for the bakery treats on hand to see and pick up in their clear cellophane wrappers. There is more to ogle than even six months ago, and Koo is doing some wonderful baking.
A chocolate crescent involves soft coils of brioche shaped into a horn. Inside, the lightest, fluffiest cocoa mousse seems to be made of just air and cacao. Not too bitter, not too sweet. Just right. There is a Goldilocks effect in much of Koo’s pastry. Her castella (Japanese kasutera sponge) cakes in flavors like sweet potato and green tea are light as a dream. And there are breads in pillowy blimps, often with baked toppings that resemble the sugary streusel toppings on Mexican pan dulce. A mocha loaf is studded with raisins and walnuts and just a hint of coffee, almost more to warm the flavors. A breakfast sandwich is a rather unexpected union of savory and sweet, a little hot pocket with ham, cheese, egg … and jam, either strawberry or grape. “My god, those breakfast creations are good,” my friend had reported to me.
But last time I went I fell hard in love with a simple cookie that’s a variation on a street snack. Just flour, water, brown sugar, sesame—as modest as can be. But the form it takes! It’s round like a pita and crispy. It puffs up, so there’s an inner surface onto which Koo somehow manages to slip brown sugar and have it caramelize into a pane of sweet caramelized glass, with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. It crunches and shatters into shards. Like a communion wafer … only really, really not.