Say you’ve downed a plate of kushikatsu, emptied your rice bowl, and finished a round of drinks at the relatively-new, casual-Japanese joint Ikomai.
As if nudging you to make sure to leave room for a sweet ending, the Tochi Desserts display case greets you as soon as you enter the establishment.
Tochi began as a home-based enterprise by Ikomai’s Chef James Antolin, who holds a long list of achievements under his belt that include being the Vice President of both the Pastry Alliance of the Philippines and the LTB Chefs Association. His first product, Tochi Cookies, were sold alongside Ikomai’s kushikatsu stall (which he co-owns) at the Salcedo Saturday Market—and like the kushikatsu, these cookies also became a hit, garnering an award from Yummy Magazine’s annual ‘Best Dessert’ list in 2016. It is only natural that he brought Tochi along as they opened Ikomai’s standalone restaurant, where he would not only conceptualize sweet new creations for Ikomai, but also expand the Tochi line.
My inspiration comes from everyone I work with as they are part of Tochi [and] Ikomai, and of course, my wife and kids. As I ask them what they love to eat, they always enjoy what I bake and cook. I will always say everyone is part of me, it’s not just I or me. Everyone is involved to move forward.”
Be sure to drop by for Tochi’s Afternoon Tea Sessions, where high tea sets of a wide selection of their pastries can be had from 2:30-5:30 p.m.
No longer limited by the constraints of space and temperature as was the case at the Saturday market, the new Ikomai & Tochi restaurant allows him to experiment and push boundaries within the realm of pastries and desserts. For desserts under the Ikomai belt, Antolin puts his pastry chef hat on with a succinct selection of plated desserts that similarly echo the philosophy and soul of Ikomai: casual but creative, with Nagoya-inspired flair. For the desserts under Tochi on the other hand, Antolin injects a different style—one that’s more refined, precise, and restrained—but is no less creative, fusing classic and modern flavors into fine works of pastry art, including pastries, gâteaux, homemade ice creams, and sorbets that delight the eye as they do the stomach.
Here are our favorites:
Notice the fudge oozing out of the center.
The flagship product Tochi is known for and loved at the Salcedo Market can now be enjoyed six days of the week. Cookies, Antolin reasons, hold an appeal that know no age limit, being well-loved by both adults (we should know) and kids; easily enjoyed all times of the day (“[for] breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner,” Antolin shares); and conveniently be brought around anywhere.
These are no ordinary cookies however. Dark and lustrous on the outside with a slightly cracked appearance, a bite reveals an insanely chocolatey interior that is molten and practically gooey, with just enough structure to hold itself together. You get a bold dose of chocolate here that is not only dark, but also has a good, full body—the kind you get from the addition of actual melted chocolate in the batter. And, studded with a generous amount of mix-ins, each cookie juggles nutty, fudgy, and gooey into each indulgent bite. It’s hard to pick favorites, but in a pinch we’d highly recommend the especially-bittersweet Espresso Walnut, the earthy Matcha, and the ultra-chocolatey Double Chocolate.
We don’t know about you, but there’s something oddly enticing about desserts you can eat with a fork and spoon.
From the Ikomai dessert line is this updated take on the Italian classic. Here, they take the espresso-and-cream combo of traditional tiramisu with the addition of the dessert ingredient du jour of matcha—and interprets it as a plated dessert with a matcha sponge soaked in three milks and rolled up with a sheet of coffee jelly; a scattering of a matcha crumble; and teensy bits of homemade marshmallows. Surprisingly, the green tea does not compete with the coffee, instead making for an earthy counterpoint to the coffee and cream’s tried-and-tested combination and enhances the java’s bitterness. And with the multitude of components in the plate, you get a mix of creamy, crunchy, soft and chewy that keeps you on your toes with each spoonful.
Bavarian Lychee with Guava Gelee
Clockwise from top-left: Lemon Citron (a tart lemony dessert with a layer of apple-yuzu gelee and almond streusel); Chocolate Symphony (an eight-layer confection of chocolate in different formats—brownie, whipped ganache, moist cake, and glaze); and the Bavarian Lychee with Guava Gelee (a vibrant, fruity treat with guava jelly, lychee mousse, and a buttery blondie base).
As you enter the restaurant you are immediately greeted by the Tochi Dessert display case, showcasing their line of pastries and gâteaux. Though all pieces bear a similar roughly-1.5” x 4”-surface format, geometric design, and vibrant, typically-multilayered appearance, each dessert bears its own distinct personality and combination of tastes and textures. A standout for us is the Bavarian Lychee with Guava Gelee—an especially fruity confection full of tropical fruit flavors with layers of guava jelly, lychee mousse, and a blondie base plated with thin sheets of white chocolate. Equally creamy yet tart, each layer comes in proper proportions that make for a wonderfully balanced, vibrant sum which, from end to end, feels refreshing and never cloying. “It’s our entry to a competition in Italy,” Antolin shares. We wouldn’t be surprised if it emerges a winner.
Tochi Desserts (Ikomai & Tochi)
A line of desserts by pastry chef and Ikomai co-owner James Antolin.