Long queues for cheese tarts

The queue for the confectionary (above) yesterday at about 10.30am.
The queue for the confectionary (above) yesterday at about 10.30am. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Hokkaido shop opens in Ion Orchard with customers waiting in line for two hours

Auditor C. Ang, 23, had planned to visit the Bake Cheese Tart shop in Ion Orchard after work.

But a fire drill at her Raffles Place office gave her the opportunity to visit the shop in the morning instead.

She joined hundreds of others who queued for the tarts from Hokkaido, Japan, known for their mousse-like cream cheese filling and crisp pastry.

The shop, at B4 of the mall, opened for business at 10am yesterday, but people were already queuing from 8.30am. They were not deterred even when told by staff that the waiting time would be more than two hours. In fact, people continued to join the queue.

Ms Ang says: "There's a fire drill happening at my office, so I thought I might as well come and queue now instead. It would probably be sold out if I come after work."

The queue (above) for the confectionary yesterday at about 10.30am. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Also in the queue was Mr Taylor Ong, 24, a student at the National University of Singapore, who knew about the tarts from friends and from reading reviews in food blogs.

He says: "I just finished my exams and have some free time, so I'm taking the opportunity to indulge in nice food."

For its opening in Singapore, the store prepared 4,000 tarts, with a second delivery later in the day. They cost $3.50 each and $19.50 for a box of six. Each customer can buy up to 12 tarts at a time.

Mr Sherman Wong, 30, a finance analyst, was in the mall having breakfast after his gym workout. He arrived at 8.30am and was one of the first in the queue.

He says: "After hearing a colleague rave about it, my wife wanted to try the cheese tarts. She works in the area so I might drop them off. An hour-plus wait is acceptable."

The long wait stems from the fact that the cheese tarts are baked on the spot. The first batch of 108 cheese tarts went into the oven at 9am, an hour before opening time. After they come out of the oven, they have to cool for 30 minutes to firm up before they are packed and sold.

Mr Wong, who ate one right after buying them, says: "It's soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and not very sweet. Most importantly, you can taste the cheese inside, which is the key point of the tart."

Five customers at a time were ushered into the shop.

The idea for the cheese tarts comes from Singapore.

Mr Shintaro Naganuma, president and CEO of Bake, says it happened in November 2011, when his family's bakery, Kinotoya, was invited to a week-long Hokkaido fair in Meidi-Ya supermarket in Liang Court.

Kinotoya, an established Western confectionery in Sapporo, ran out of the usual packaging to store its chilled blueberry cheese tarts. He resorted to displaying them on metal baking trays, which inspired him to bake the chilled tarts and serve them warm instead.

The tarts were a hit and the booth sold 1,000 tarts a day during the fair.

Upon his return, he experimented with removing the blueberries from the tarts and making them smaller for easier consumption.

The tarts became so popular that he started Bake in 2014. It now has 10 outlets in Japan, two in Seoul and one each in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The Singapore store is Bake's fifth outlet overseas.

See a video of the queue and read more stories at http://str.sg/444P

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'Long queues for cheese tarts'. Print Edition | Subscribe