Monday, April 27, 2009

Beard Papa’s: A Japanese-via-California Fad Comes to Orlando

I love all things Japanese. Especially the things that are just a little bit different from what we’re used to. You know what I’m talking about: their freakish attention to detail, their weird game shows, Hello Kitty, Pikachu, Yoko Ono, and, of course, their bizarre taste in food. When a Beard Papa’s location opened in Orlando, I had to check it out.

Beard Papa’s is a bakery concept from Osaka, Japan that first opened in 1999, and has since spread to more than 300 locations worldwide. The chain has become quite the fad in California, and other parts of the west coast, thanks to the quirky name and lovable image of founder Yuji Hirota’s bearded grandfather in the logo. The location at Prime Outlets (formerly Belz Outlets) in Orlando is the first in the state of Florida.

Beard Papa’s serves a couple of interesting items. Foremost are their Cream Puffs ($5.45), pie crust and choux pastry shells filled with a custard and whipped cream mixture. They are baked in-house several times throughout the day and filled with the custard mixture only when you place your order. In Osaka, locals eat cream puffs for breakfast and snacks much the same way Americans eat bagels or doughnuts. They were okay, but they didn’t taste all that fresh, or all that sweet to me. I wouldn’t rush back to try another, and certainly not for $5.45.

The most interesting things in the shop to me were the ice cream-filled mochi balls ($6.24, 4-pack). Mochi balls are small, round, rice cakes popular throughout Japan. At Beard Papa’s, they were filled with premium ice cream in several flavors. I tried chocolate, dark chocolate strawberry, chocolate/vanilla, and blueberry. Now these were good, but to me, the mocha balls only acted as vessels to hold the delicious, creamy ice cream inside. One caveat: they offer some interesting flavors, but when I visited, they were out of more flavors than they had in stock.

The third items of note at Beard Papa’s that were just a little different from what you might normally order were the Mango and Strawberry Ice Showers ($5.75). These looked really cool, but when I got to thinking about them, I realized that they were really just fancy snow cones with frozen fruit chunks on top. The way they are made presents a problem. You have to eat the fruit chunks first, and then you come to a plain, tasteless shaved ice layer to eat through. Once you get about half way down the ice and syrupy fruit are finally mixed enough to be called a slushy or a snow cone if you will. At the bottom, ice and fruit mixed, they are really good.

Now don’t come expecting funky, attention-to-detail-obsessed Japanese service. No, the staff here was made up entirely of locals, but from the chaos and disorder behind the counter, I can only assume that their trainer spoke only Japanese. I mean the service was a disaster. The crew seemed like they had no idea what they were doing, and no one person seemed to be in charge. They were out of several products, packaging and napkins. They asked me what I had ordered repeatedly as they assembled my order. They served the ice showers with syrup dripping down the sides of the cups and only had paper towel to offer me for cleanup. I could go on, but you get the picture: service was a disaster.

So is it worth a trip to the tourist madness of Prime Outlets to try Beard Papa’s? Not really. The place is quirky, and the name and logo are fun, but you can get cream puffs, ice cream and snow cones anywhere. And honestly, the ineptitude of the service was inexcusable. Don’t bother with this fad; it’ll be over before you know it anyway.

2 Quirky, Japanese Fads out of 5

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Anonymous said...

I think fancy snow cones with layered fruit is the way to go!

Anonymous said...

I heard a lot of people raving about this place, I have yet to visit but where else do you recommend getting mochi ice cream and cream puffs?

Anonymous said...

Testing 123...

Anonymous said...

I am glad that I read this before I went.

surina said...

is this your blog julius? if so awesome! ran across this on a search :P if not ... hi to whoever owns this!