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Food & Drink

What’s on the menu at Issho Bakery, Riverdale’s new place for coffee and Japanese-inspired desserts

Including milk chocolate matcha cookies, miso marshmallow squares and kimchi scones

By Liza Agrba| Photography by Marc Santos
What's on the menu at Issho Bakery, Riverdale's new place for coffee and Japanese-inspired desserts

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Name: Issho Bakery Contact: 583 Gerrard St. E., isshobakery.com, @isshobakery
Neighbourhood: Riverdale
Chef-owners: Yuka Watts, Martin Yeung Accessibility: Fully accessible (but no customer washroom)   Pastry chef Yuka Watts and baker Martin Yeung, partners in business and life, both have fine-dining backgrounds—but, when lockdown hit, they took the opportunity to put down the plating tweezers and focus on creating desserts that put substance over style. “We had both been working with frou-frou food for so long,” says Watts. “I wanted to make something that tasted really good versus having it look a particular way but not deliver the flavour I was after.”

Issho Bakery owners Martin Yeung and Yuka Watts
Owners Martin Yeung and Yuka Watts

Incidentally, the creations they churned out of their home bakery—milk chocolate matcha cookies, milky hojicha spelt sable cookies and sourdough sandwich loaves—still looked good enough to fuel a successful Instagram-based business. About a year into their virtual bakery, they started selling sweets in a handful of coffee shops across the city. A steadier revenue stream meant the pair could realize their original goal to open a brick-and-mortar shop, and a few months ago, they moved into the small Riverdale space formerly inhabited by Soul Chocolates (which has since expanded and moved farther east).

The business has hit a nice stride, and the pair hope to expand in the future, but they won’t grow the team until they can afford to pay everyone a living wage. Issho is also part of One Percent for the Planet—a certification accorded to businesses that donate at least that much of their annual revenue to environment-related causes. Given that Issho Bakery’s motto is “making stuff we wanna eat,” it only makes sense that they would create a business resolutely in line with their values.

Martin Yeung and Yuka Watts work behind the counter at Issho Bakery
The food

As the name suggests (issho is Japanese for “together”), this bakery draws inspiration from characteristically seasonal, not-too-sweet Japanese desserts. But Issho is relatively free-wheeling with its recipes, unencumbered by straightforward allegiance to a particular tradition. Ingredients are top quality across the board, including stone-ground flour from 1847, a Fergus-based miller. In one signature cookie, the grassy bitterness of high-grade matcha powder is cut with the silky sweetness of Valrhona and Cacao Barry milk chocolate. Scones are layered with scarlet kimchi for an umami-rich bite. Here, sugar is almost an undertone, only there to deftly balance other flavours.

A pastry chef pours the liquid for canele into moulds at Issho Bakery in Toronto's east end
Beeswax is poured into canelé moulds, which are then emptied, leaving a thin coating that gives the custards a beautiful glossy exterior

 

Two canelé at Issho Bakery
These are classic, custardy French canelés with a twist to the traditional vanilla-and-rum flavour base. The one on the left is laced with hojicha, a roasted green tea. And on the right, tonka bean—a South American bean that tastes of almond, cherry and vanilla—subs in for vanilla. $3.85 each

 

A selection of Japanese-inspired cookies and squares at Issho Bakery in Toronto's east end
Clockwise from top left: a cookie made with high-grade Japanese matcha and balanced with delicate Valrhona and Cacao Barry milk chocolate, a ginger molasses spice cookie enhanced with Chinese five spice for a heady kick, a peanut miso corn Chex marshmallow square (think grown-up Rice Krispie square with extra depth and crunch), and a “secretly vegan” dark chocolate chip cookie enriched with olive oil and finished with sea salt. $3.50 each for the cookies, $3 for the square

 

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A selection of Japanese-inspired muffins and squares at Issho Bakery in Toronto's east end
Clockwise from top left: a savoury cornbread muffin with green onions and cheddar; a morning glory muffin stuffed with apple, coconut, carrot, cranberry, orange and pumpkin seeds; a mixed berry and cream cheese scone topped with coarse sugar; and a kimchi cheddar scone finished with black and white sesame seeds. $3.85 each

 

Packs of shortbread cookies at Issho Bakery in Toronto
Buttery shortbread (or sablé) cookies flavoured with (on the left) honey from Quebec-based apiary Miels d’Anicet or (on the right) crispy almond cinnamon and cinnamon sugar. $4 a pack

 

The drinks

Dessert is the star at Issho, but coffee is no afterthought. Beans from Hamilton-based Detour make up the house roast, with chocolatey, nutty tones. But there’s also a rotating selection of lighter-roast single-origin coffee, which is more in line with what Watts and Yeung drink at home. (There’s a small premium per drink if you opt for a more adventurous bean.) Besides your regular roundup of espresso-based bevies, there are killer specialty options, like a bright, fizzy mix of espresso, tonic and yuzu juice.

A café mocha and two canelé at Issho Bakery in Toronto
A mocha with house-made chocolate syrup and espresso. Hello, perfect pick-me-up. $6

 

The military latte at Issho Bakery is a mix of matcha, milk and espresso
Here we have Tokyo’s “military latte”—layered matcha, milk and espresso, served unstirred. Mix it to a funky camo brown that tastes much better than it looks. $6.80

 

Stacks of branded coffee cups at Issho Bakery
Issho Bakery co-owner Martin Yeung
The space

It’s a cozy counter-café with wood details, white walls, touches of greenery and a glass partition between the back kitchen and the front serving area. Shelves lining one wall display beans for sale by the bag, along with honey from Quebec-based craft apiary Miels d’Anicet, which Issho uses in its honey shortbread. It’s a small room, but clean lines and an ordered, intelligent use of space keep it from feeling stuffy.

Inside Issho Bakery in Toronto's east end
The menu at Issho Bakery in Toronto
A shelf is lined with bags of coffee beans and Issho Bakery in Toronto's east end
Art hangs on the wall at Toronto's Issho Bakery
The exterior of Issho Bakery in Toronto
A sign for Issho Bakery

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