Bounce into Keki Mod­ern Cakes

Japan’s hottest cheese­cake ar­rives in Chi­na­town.

Metro USA (New York) - - Things To Do - EVA KIS @thi­siskis eva.kis@metro.us

To find New York City’s hottest new cheese­cake, you’ll have to ven­ture into the heart of Chi­na­town.

Pan-Asian bak­ery Keki Mod­ern Cakes just opened at 77-79 Mott St., the first spot in the U.S. to serve a light-as-air sweet treat called “Ja­panese bouncy cheese­cake” that’s al­ready a full-blown sen­sa­tion over­seas, says owner Lawrence Wai.

“I travel ex­ten­sively through Asia, and I have seen this ev­ery­where,” says Wai, who first tried the cheese­cake in Tai­wan about a year ago af­ter wait­ing his turn at a mobbed bak­ery. “I’m not much of a sweets per­son my­self, but ev­ery­one’s cu­rios­ity gets the bet­ter of them, so we stood in line — and it was worth it.”

Hav­ing also stood in line our­selves, we can at­test to that. The shop has been open barely a month and the bouncy cheese­cake is al­ready so pop­u­lar that any­one who doesn’t or­der ahead is look­ing at a 15-minute wait for the next batch to come out of the oven.

To bring the cake to New York, Wai re­cruited ex­ec­u­tive chef Kevin Kim. Fus­ing his back­grounds as an alum of both Per Se and Nobu, Kim’s se­cret is French meringue to give the dessert its bounci­ness.

While the cake’s color and ap­pear­ance are both clas­sic cheese­cake, the con­fec­tion gives a jig­gle that would make Jell-O en­vi­ous. Made sim­ply enough with cream cheese from Amish farms, or­ganic milk and freerange eggs, its top is a fluffy cake, pro­gress­ing into a dense mousse as you go down, a play on tex­tures that’s es­sen­tial in Asian desserts. The taste, how­ever, is the same un­mis­tak­able rich­ness and sweet­ness of cheese­cake.

The bouncy cheese­cake might steal the show, but the shop’s other spe­cialty — a Tai­wanese cake called Castella — de­serves a shout out, too. A del­i­cately sweet pound cake that’s been puffed full of so much air it prac­ti­cally floats comes with the op­tion to add a layer of whipped cream­like frost­ing (we highly rec­om­mend this).

And like any other NYC food sen­sa­tion, peo­ple can’t wait to show it off. Cus­tomers crowd the side­walk around the shop, phones at the ready, to In­sta­gram all the fron­trow cake ac­tion go­ing on in Keki’s pic­ture win­dow where bak­ers bring their steam­ing trays fresh from the oven.

“We want ev­ery­thing to ap­peal to the five senses,” Wai ex­plains, “so watch­ing the cake steam as it’s freshly cut, the process that we do, to pack­ing it, is part of the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Wai has plans to open two more lo­ca­tions. The shop’s se­lec­tion will also slowly grow, adding pop­u­lar fla­vors like matcha as well as sea­sonal cakes. And per­haps an item or two cel­e­brat­ing his new home­town.

“Even­tu­ally, we’re go­ing to try to pay homage to New York, too,” he says. “One of our breads is kind of eggy, so we’re go­ing to do a ham and cheese sand­wich or a pizza.”

Grav­ity-de­fy­ing pizza? We’ll be in line to try that, too.

Think of the Ja­panese bouncy cheese­cake as a well-done souf­fle.

BRAN­DON HARDIN

A baker trims a fresh batch of Castella Cake in Keki’s win­dow.

Keki Mod­ern Cakes

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