Sunday, February 03, 2008

Japonaise Bakery & Cafe - Tustin

Cream Pan, Tustin's beloved little Japanese bakery, was just that: little.

The storefront was nothing more than a door that led to a utilitarian room where they did the baking. Immediately as you enter, there's a tiny counter, a small glass display case, and a few measly square feet of space where you pick, pay, and get out.

There's no place to linger, sip coffee, or savor a sandwich. I've spent many a lunch hour eating Cream Pan's pastries outside, in my parked car, trying very hard to keep the crumbs from lodging themselves between the upholstery.

And then there's the odd and unpredictable operating hours. They open when they open and close whenever they feel like it.

Now, the bakery's all grown up, taking over and expanding into the vacated retail space next door. The spacious new digs -- called Japonaise Bakery & Cafe -- is a bonafide hang-out spot and long overdue. There are chairs to slouch in, tables to rest your arm on, and even a restroom for when you've had too much cappuccino (which they serve in mugs large enough to be soup bowls).

The baked goods are just as tempting as they've always been. You can tell just by looking at the sturdy, crusty gashes on the baguettes and rustic loaves that a good slather of butter is all they need. Croissants appear to be flaky enough to cause a minor crumb avalanche when bitten, while the scones seem as dense as Jessica Simpson.

But this visit was in service to our sweet tooth. The strawberry croissant was the first one we chose to call dessert. Cream Pan's signature vanilla custard and thick slices of the fruit were sandwiched between crumbly triangles of puffed pastry. Powdered sugar dust clung to it like frost, and then on our fingers.

The bulbous dome of the azuki cream was cracked open, like a hatching alien egg. But inside the spongy fried dough, there's some whipped cream and a filling of Japanese red bean. The latter had a coarse texture, similar to tiny, BB-sized kidney beans, but with twice the sweetness.

Their Boston donut had more in common to Hawaii than to the Bay State -- the thing tasted more like the malasadas cooked on The Big Island and less like a Dunkin Donut. It's chewy, salty, slightly sweet, and greaseless. Hiding inside its belly was more of that sultry custard. On top, a hard, dark-chocolate shell functioned like a skull cap.

But no trip to Cream Pan is complete without a cream pan -- basically a dinner roll akin to the Filipino pan de sal injected with custard. Best part of eating one inside Japonaise: No more crumbs on the car seat.

Japonaise Bakery & Cafe
(714) 665-8239
600 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780


At 5:25 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

Aw, I heard about this. I wondered which store they took over and it looks like it's sayonara to Soccer USA!

Let's just hope that our former little bakery hasn't jumped the shark with the expansion, raised prices, and changing the sizes of some of the items.

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hubby and I still haven't tried this place. We went once but didn't have any cash on us, so we just looked longingly at the baked goods. :)

We'll have to try again and remember to bring cash with us, too!

Thanks, as always, for the reviews!

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Bill said...

This place is really good. I hope growing up in size doesn't me crappy food. And yes cash only sux!!!

At 1:38 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Now, that is the kind of place I would want to spent time chatting with girlfriends about everything and nothing at the same time! I love Japanese pastries! Do they sell cans of coffee there, too? Those are my vice!

Loved the crack about Jessica Simpson, by the way. Her "dumb girl" act annoys me. It's like she has no respect for herself or her gender.

At 1:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! I found a new study spot.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Soccer USA! That's what was there before. I was drawing a blank. Since I'm into food, not sports, this bodes better for me.

I think the prices are a wee bit higher now. Quality's the same.

Miam Miam,

Yup. Cash only. I didn't mention that, but it's still the same. Although now that they are what they are, they'll probably wise up and get a credit card machine.


So far, so good. The grub is the same. Actually the kitchen for the old Cream Pan is still producing the stuff. All that's different is now they have an espresso machine and more space!


No coffee cans. Yet. They're still figuring things out by the looks of it. They haven't even finished their sign! HAHA! And thanks for catching that Jessica Simpson slag. I have the same opinion of her as you do.


Didn't check if they have WiFi. But then, you might not get as much studying done if they did!

At 1:39 PM, Blogger dumplings said...

I heard about the expansion when I visited last time. The owner/manager told me how this place turns into a zoo in the morning hours and how unpredictably quick the bread runs out on a busy day. Therefore the store has to close early on certain days.

Sadly, I visited Paris Baguette shortly after my visit to Cream Pan, and Paris reigns supreme. The bakery items here are bit expensive, especially when you have to pay everything in cash. But come to think of it, I did drive 30 miles just to save a dollar or two for one single bakery item. Hmmm.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Griffin said...

I love this place. Glad to hear they've expanded!

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This. Is. Awesome.

I'm so glad they're back, and bigger and better. I love carbs. Especially in the form of Cream Pan goodies.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Happy New Year!

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are crumbs galore in my car, along with a few stray french fries and some soda straw wrappers. I'm a pig.

The cream pan sounds good, and it'd probably add a nice dusting of new crumbs to my ride.

I also used to live in Tustin years ago. There are probably so many food places like this that I missed out on.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Shari said...

I feel like we did a Monster Munching food tour last weekend with lunch starting at Dosa (which we love and had been to before) and after lunch to this bakery that my husband had been to once. Because I was super full from lunch, we ended up oggling the baked goods, watching the group of cute Japanese girls order sandwiches for lunch and then buying a big ciabatta bread for our dinner. It was delish! I can't wait to go back for something sweet and creme filled!

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

been wanting to maybe, sorta try cream pan for a while now - the reviews on yelp are numerous and almost all so positive. glad to see they made some space for relaxing - much more tempted to go now.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


If Paris Baguette is as good as you say, I'll definitely have to try it. There's one in the new Korean market near my home. Hmm, I think you might have suggested this on that post I did about Zion.


Me too. 'Bout time!


There ain't no better carbs than that which are also laden with custard!


Kung Hei Fat Choi!


Tustin's becoming an honest-to-goodness food town. Within walking distance from Cream Pan: Honda Ya. My favorite Japanese pub.


Glad you enjoyed Dosa! But I'm excited about the Cream Pan expansion because now there's a place to get dessert and coffee after dinner. Of course, who says you can't skip dinner altogether. Japonaise does have a few savory items.


Keep in mind that the flavors are subtler than most places, as Asian bakeries tend to be. They don't pile on the sugar and butter. But when they do, it's calculated, never for just the sake of doing it.

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the lunch box today. A great lunch of three types of sandwiches (ham, deviled egg & tuna) for $4. Did you see the crazy looking sandwich with pan-fried noodles in it...weird.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Vegasbuff said...

Glad to see that Cream Pan moved into bigger digs. I know you were on a dessert trip, but try their Katsu sandwich and Croquette sandwich. Very good and super cheap.

Here's a link to my review if you don't mind.

At 2:55 AM, Blogger dumplings said...


I'm not sure about the one in Zion. I've seen the bakery there, but never tried anything. I went to the one in Fullerton on Beach Blvd.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


No I didn't see that noodle sandwich! If I did I might have ordered precisely of it's weirdness. Weird things are easy to write about. HAHA!


How did I miss your post. Thanks for sharing. I see the strawberry croissant has always been popular.


I was at Zion last night. Completely slipped my mind that Paris Baguette is there, again. They should put that thing in the front. Not in the back, next to the butcher section.

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Keep in mind that the flavors are subtler than most places, as Asian bakeries tend to be. They don't pile on the sugar and butter. But when they do, it's calculated, never for just the sake of doing it.

that just convinced me more. one of the reasons I hesitated to go was because I DON'T like sweet stuff, as a rule, for a variety reasons. so "subtle" and "they don't pile on the sugar and butter" sound just GREAT to me. :D

this weekend, I'm there. they're less than a mile away, so it'll be a snap. thanks e!

also... sutra? nice! who woulda thunk?

At 9:19 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


In that case, I think you'll love this place. The one reason I wasn't head-over-heels before about Cream Pan was that there's no place to savor the goodies. Now, I'm smitten.

also... sutra? nice! who woulda thunk?

I'm just as surprised as anyone. It was the Weekly's idea for me to do it (to jive with their Sex Issue), and I was prepared to hate it. Instead, I was really impressed!

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmomonster, thanks for the heads-up ! I'd been to Cream Pan before but it'd been too long, so I checked it out the day after reading your post. Everyone there is sooo nice, super-polite it's quite a contrast to your typical retail experience nowadays, you know ? Almost a shock to the system...

The quality of every baked item is excellent here, you really can't go wrong IMO. I tried the puff pastry item with chantilly cream and adzuki beans, it was delicious ! I also tried (the next day) the orange croissant with chocolate chunks, which was also really really good. I also picked up a couple of curry pan, to accompany some soup we're having for dinner tonight - those are always great !

My one piece of advice for the proprieters - they need to work on their espresso drinks. Even though the head guy was making my cappucino and they have a nice machine and it was clear he was really trying hard to do a good job, they could use some help in this department - the espresso was way overextracted and I think they scorched the milk and stretched the foam too much. The resultant drink didn't taste that good.

I love places like this and I hope they continue to prosper.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What better way to celebrate the New Year than donuts and they do look tasty! I'm up to my ears in plans for this week's Paris Chinese New Years celebrations.

I'm also really curious to see what Paris Baguette looks like in your part of the world and I'm anxiously awaiting your post! (the French diaspora...)

At 5:44 AM, Blogger Sanford Woo said...

You have a great blog and I've linked to it. I'm envious of the variety available to you in the OC. We're less fortunate in the food bland Midwest.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I *almost* got a curry pan that day too. I really wanted one, but seeing as I just ate lunch, I had to hold back...well, actually, judging by the amount of dessert items I did eat, I wasn't really all that successful in holding back. So much for that!

I, too, hope Japonaise Bakery continues for a long time to come.


Just for you, I'll do a post. But it'll have to wait until I do more savory foods. I've noticed I've been doing a lot of bakeries lately!


I've checked out your blog and I like it! Look for your link to come on my sidebar shortly. Also by the looks of it, it seems the Twin Cities also has good eats!

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i had to stop by and say thanks! this gem is right down the street from me and been going everyday. beats JJ any day. i'm addicted to their azuki cream and cappucino.

you must try their cheese bowl as soon as they come out. "bread bowl" with gooey gruyere in center. drool*

(btw this is my shibucho of baked goods)

At 11:02 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I also love that azuki cream. It's like nothing I've ever had anywhere else!

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Katie said...

I had to try the noodle sandwich. It was a little sweeter and more vinegary than I expected, and I think could have used a whole hard boiled egg instead of half... definitely an interesting experience though. Has anyone had the gobo pan thing? I thought I saw bacon in there somewhere...

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Kvns said...

I was wondering if they sell Madeleines there? And if they don't, can anybody tell me what bakery in orange county does?


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