In July I finally had enough confidence in my schedule to be able to pre-order from Ono Bakehouse in Berkeley for pick-up. With the opening fanfare, the bakery had been selling out most days and ordering in advance was essential. Then right about that time, production had ramped up enough that there was enough inventory for walk-ins as well.
Ono's owner was born and raised on Maui. She integrates the flavors and snacks of Hawaiian childhood with her experience as a pastry chef at fine dining restaurants. That precision and attention to detail comes through in each of her creations.
My favorite turned out to be the Taro hand pie, a flaky wonder almost as crisp as puff pastry filled with mildly sweetened taro. The least favorite was the day's special, a 4" lilikoi chiffon pie, $9. While the chiffon part was lovely, this was topped with a baked meringue rather than the whipped cream common in the islands. The meringue was awful . . . dry, grainy, painfully sweet and sugary . . . and I scraped it off so it did not ruin each bite of the pie.
The other items I tried included the Queen Emma cake, $8 per slice, is the signature item, layering chiffon cake with pastel stripes of guava, passionfruit and coconut mousse and finished with shards of toasted coconut. The Emma was enjoyable but far too restrained and a little more sugar might have popped out more tropical fruitiness. Mini lilikoi poppyseed pound cake, $4.75, was barely sweetened, moist, crumbly and quite tender with a beautifully balanced tart-sweet coconut passionfruit glaze. Spicy Berkshire pork sausage bun, $3.50, made a spicier than expected statement as an upmarket pig-in-a-blanket. Good, but the squiggle of Kewpie mayo and nori garnish were left behind on the paper wrapper.
None of the pastries I tried on this single outing will have me running back. One friend says she likes the butter mochi here. What are your favorites?
1922 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Berkeley, California 94704
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