Hundreds of Torontoians braved the cold to celebrate the grand opening of the first Canadian franchise of Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake. The opening of Uncle Tetsu’s marks another Japanese franchise joining Dundas Street which is already populated with MUJI, Santouka, and Sansotei. It wouldn’t be surprising if this area soon becomes Japantown. Located beside the Toronto Coach Terminal at Dundas and Bay, the Uncle Tetsu’s Toronto franchise is the largest store–double the size of the typical store located in Asia.
The store’s front window features a preparation counter, allowing customers to watch bakers carefully measure and mix batters by hand. The store interior features an exposed brick wall decorated with gold frames and a clock. Uncle Tetsu’s menu board spans the wall behind the main counter.
Staff wear a white t-shirt with a chef jacket imprint. This is accented with a splash of colour in the caps an aprons–female and male staff wear red and black, respectively. Bakers wear mouth masks which are commonly seen in the Asian food preparation industry.
Founder Tetsushi Mizokami a.k.a Uncle Tetsu, greeted his fans on opening day. Clad in a sweater bearing his caricature and slippers, he walked around the store, cell phone in hand, while posing for pictures with his fans. Pictures were actively uploaded to Facebook and Instagram.
Mizokami was introduced to baking at the young age of five. His parents opened a bakery in 1951 and would spend long hours in the kitchen. Since he wanted to be close to his parents the only way was to join them in the store. Learning the trade was inevitable.
In 1990, at the age of 35, he opened his own bakery in Fukuoka, Japan. Mizokami said that he observed that bakeries usually bake cakes early in the morning which are sold throughout the day. When he opened his bakery, Mizokami was surprised that he needed to bake multiple times a day because his cakes were continually selling out. His single store soon expanded across Asia. Today there are over one hundred franchises in Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, and Cambodia combined. The Toronto franchise marks Uncle Tetsu’s first venture outside of Asia.
A spokesperson indicated that people in Asia wait one hour for their cheesecake. This was no different in Toronto. The average time from joining the line outside of the store to exiting the store with cheesecake in hand was about one hour. The grand opening was so busy that they ran out of ingredients and had to get more in order to continue baking for the unending line of customers.
Customers are warned about the wait time. They are informed that cheesecakes are made in batches of 12. However, if a cheesecake is cracked, it cannot be sold as it does not meet their quality. Each cheesecake is branded with Uncle Tetsu’s stamp of approval prior to being packed into its distinct packaging.
What is a Japanese cheesecake? It is unlike a sweet and dense New York cheesecake, it is a slightly sweet, light and fluffy cheesecake. Having trouble picturing it? Try envisioning a cream cheese flavoured sponge cake. When a New York cheesecake is too much after a heavy meal, a Japanese cheesecake is a great alternative.
Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake is made from six simple ingredients: premium imported cream cheese, butter, milk, fresh farm eggs, sugar, and flour. This simple combination creates a cheesecake melts in your mouth. It is no wonder why people wait in line for hours and keep on coming back for more!
For the grand opening, only the original flavour of Madeleines and cheesecake were sold in attempts to quickly serve customers who are waiting in line. The store will eventually prepare the six flavours of Madeleines which are currently available in Asia. Madeleines are the best when they come out fresh from the oven but unfortunately there is no space to sit and enjoy them in the store. Cheesecakes will also be made in multiple flavours including macha, chocolate and honey (which happens to be the most popular flavour in Taiwan).
Despite having three ovens baking cheesecakes, only 12 cakes can be made at a time. Cheesecakes are limited to one per person. Another oven bakes Madeleines. Yet this is not enough ovens for this small store. Uncle Tetsu explains that the Angel Hat is a highly delicate dessert. After baking a test batch he realized that the Angel Hat could not successfully baked in a North American oven. As such, he is specially shipping an oven from Asia which he knows is capable of baking this highly sensitive item to perfection. Fans will have to return on another day to try the Angel Hat. The menu board lets fans know that more treats will be introduced in the future. Will this include the apple pie, cheese tart, and pudding? A repeat visit is required to see what the future holds!
Uncle Tetsu’s offerings:
6-inch cheesecake $8.88
5-inch Angel Hat $8.88
598 Bay Street