Hanabusa Cafe, a Toronto restaurant offering fluffy, jiggly Japanese souffle pancakes, has licensed its first U.S. franchise and is slated to debut in the the Loop. Ken Au, a managing partner at local mini-chain Poke Poke, plans to open the cafe in late August or early September at 29 E. Madison Street.
Souffle pancakes “taste like your traditional pancake, but have a soft, fudgey-cake feel to them,” said Au, who first tried the wobbly treats with friends in Toronto last year. Chicago’s Hanabusa (“floral house” in Japanese, according to the website) will offer the same food menu as the original location, including the matcha pancake (Kyoto matcha sauce, sweet azuki bean, strawberry, blueberry, whipping cream) and the earl grey and caramel pancake (earl grey and caramel sauce, strawberry, blueberry, whipping cream).
Hanabusa Cafe will also offer espresso drinks (Au hasn’t yet settled on a purveyor), including cappuccinos and flat whites, as well as hot matcha and matcha lattes. The U.S. shop will feature bubble tea, which Au said is a relative rarity in the area. Milk tea and fruit flavors like apple and watermelon will be available.
The 1,200-square-foot space will strongly resemble the Toronto cafe, Au said, but he plans to update its monochromatic scheme with fresh color to create contrast. Customers will order at a counter and staff will deliver their pancakes to the table. The space is approximately 70 percent complete and contains bar stools that line the window as well as benches and tables, seating 25-30 people. Au said he also plans to add a special area for taking pictures, an especially popular pastime at Asian cafes.
Japanese souffle pancakes are relative newcomers to the Western food-trend cycle, popping up at restaurants in London, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, and in Instagram feeds across the globe. Some customers have waited for hours to taste the popular, buoyant flour towers. Locally, Lettuce Entertain Your Enterprises’s Sushi-San offers the pancakes.
Poke Poke made headlines in January when a white manager threw a chair at an African American customer. The restaurant issued an apology to the customer, fired the manager, and conducted sensitivity training with employees. Au said he had no comment on the issue.
Stay tuned for more news as Hanabusa Cafe progresses.