New York's latest cult dessert has hit Australia - is it worth the frenzy?
We've waited two hours to try Harajuku Gyoza's version of the famous raindrop cake - the pretty, new cult dessert, available at the Brisbane and Potts Point, Sydney locations, that's popping up on everyone's social media feeds. When we arrive at the South Brisbane dumpling bar at 12.30pm, the first batch is finished - already out and being photographed from various angles by eager diners. On our return, the small bamboo boat delivered to our table holds a giant jiggly water jelly droplet, bookended by a pool of darkly caramelised sugar syrup (kuromitsu) and a dessert spoon of ochre-coloured rubble made from toasty roasted soy flour (kinako) and crushed sesame seeds.
A second vessel contains a delicate strawberry-flavoured jelly dome. It's tinged pink, with a blueberry at its centre, and a sliver of strawberry beneath. It looks disconcertingly like an oversized (rheumy) eyeball, with a white puddle of thin condensed milk to one side, and kinako and crushed peanuts on the other.
As our cakes arrive the server tells us we've got 30 minutes to dig in before they dissolve. Both disappear in a couple of minutes. The jellies are super-light in texture, created from sugar water and agar-agar, with a dash of strawberry flavouring in the fruit version. They hold their shape as the spoon dips in, much the same way as a slightly under-set panna cotta. The flavour of the kuromitsu is like the caramel topping used on crème caramel and the jelly has a texture similar to the crème - which is confusing since it tastes just like sweet rainwater. The kinako component anchors both dishes, providing a savoury note to balance the sweetness.
Both versions of the raindrop cake cost $8 and the kitchen is having a hard time keeping pace with demand. It's now also available in Sydney, but Harajuku co-owner, Steve Minon, is still unsure whether he'll roll out the raindrop cake to all five stores. He's proud, however, to be the first Australian eatery to nail the dessert. "It just goes with the personality of Harajuku," says Minon, "we're all about fun and giving diners an experience."
If you're fed up with the sweet excesses of previous blood-sugar spiking dessert fads - saturated fat-laden cronuts and Tim Tam-topped freakshakes, say - then the ethereal raindrop cake is the perfect antidote. It's inspired by a Japanese dessert, mizu shingen mochi, which is sold only in summer, created by Kinseiken Seika Company, a Yamanashi-based firm. It was US chef Darren Wong who brought the concept to global attention at New York's Smorgasburg markets. The raindrop cake now has its own Facebook page, Instagram account and website. Time will tell whether its popularity will evaporate as quickly as the dessert itself or if it's here to stay.
The rainbow cake is currently available at Harajuku Gyoza Brisbane and Sydney. See their website for store locations.