In New York City, Taiyaki -- famous for their custard and red bean stuffed fish cones topped with soft serve and unicorn horns -- starting whipping up soufflé pancakes just last month. The pancakes are only available Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 11 am to 2 pm with a limit of 100 servings per day via a similar ticketed system to Gram. Servings come with 2 pancakes, but diners can add a third for an additional $3 if they’re feeling especially hungry. Taiyaki’s owner, Jimmy Chen, revealed that they make upwards of 600 to 800 pancakes each weekend.
“We first encountered these Japanese soufflé pancakes in Japan [and] were amazed at the delicate nature of the product, how jiggly they were, and how amazing it tasted as well,” Chen shared. “We have a track record of bringing treasures from Asia back to NYC and this was definitely an amazing product that we had to bring back.”
I arrived at Taiyaki on a chilly Friday morning, around 11:30, where the line was about seven deep. It was about 32 degrees outside, the ground still slick from snowfall the night before, and yet hungry diners were still willing -- and excited -- about the prospect of digging into the thick pancakes.
Flayvon Milord and Tyler Stofer, who were lined up in front of me, both discovered the photogenic pancakes through Instagram. For Milord, it was through a Japanese food blogger: “She posted a picture of this and I had to try it,” he said.
Stofer came across the pancakes in a slightly different way, but also through social media. “I watch a lot of ASMR eating videos and I kept seeing these pancakes everywhere. So I saw them before and I looked it up to see if there were anywhere in New York City, and this popped up. And it was brand new,” she explained.
When I asked if they thought the pancakes would be worth the wait -- in the cold -- the pair shrugged and laughed. “I really hope so!” Stofer exclaimed, bouncing on her toes to keep warm. “It’ll be worth it because it’s part of the experience,” Milord chimed in.
About 20 minutes after I had arrived, I was inside the little shop and had placed my order for both soufflé pancake offerings: an original, topped with butter, maple syrup, whipped cream, and a light dusting of powdered sugar, as well as the matcha glazed in a creamy, green tea-based sauce. Taiyaki is so small that there is little seating -- and everyone in the shop was hovering, waiting for their own soufflé pancakes.
It’s important to note that the wait for pancakes is about 15 minutes after ordering, which can explain why places put a limit on how many they are willing to make a day. “Making these pancakes takes tremendous care, patience, and skill. If you mess up in one step, it can negatively affect the outcome of the Japanese soufflé pancake for sure,” Chen explained. “Each step needs to be mastered to create that perfect light and airy Japanese soufflé pancake.”