Friday, May 1, 2009

Fun Playing With Buns at Koko Bakery, Cleveland Asiatown

Immediately following our delicious repast at Wonton Gourmet last Saturday, our entire group of seven adjourned to Cleveland Asiatown's fabulous Koko Bakery, 3710 Payne Ave Cleveland, OH (216) 881-7600 (no website, menu here). And for once, I remembered to bring my camera in!

Koko is located in Payne Commons, around the corner from Tink Holl Market.

The Bakery offers WiFi, Rice Plates, Rice Bowls, Salads, Sandwiches, Bubble Tea, Shaved Ice, Fruit Smoothies and a variety of teas, coffees and Coffee Smoothies, all at very friendly prices, seven days a week. But the best reason to visit is to partake in the fabulous baked goods, savory and sweet. Years ago,I was told that this style of bakery is called "Shanghai Bakery" (and indeed, we encountered this type of bakery in Shanghai, China), but I couldn't find any internet references to it, so what the heck do I know?

Well - I know that it is all delicious! Sorry for the yellows - lighting in the pastry cases combined with the colors of the pastries to yield these results:

The way this works is you pick up a tray with a paper liner on it and a pair of tongs. You then select your pastries of choice and place them on your tray, and bring the tray to the cash register to pay and either chow down, or have your selections wrapped for travel. Here is my tray:

More Goodies Come Out of the Oven and Into the Display Case

I completely forgot to photograph the refrigerated case to the right of the bakery display, and the heated unit to the left. The former contains steamed buns with savory and sweet fillings. The latter contains items, such as Hotdog Buns and BBQ Pork Buns, that are much more palatable to instant consumption when they are hot.

Savory Dinner Rolls

Like most Chinese pastry - these are just a little sweet, and very fluffy.

Assorted Breads

Simply beautiful cakes.


Kay's Selections - A Fruit and Custard Tart, and Dan Tac (Egg Custards)

When the proprietor, Jessica, saw me taking photos, she insisted that we must try her most primo specialty:

Unfortunately, Jessica had no way to know that I have a total aversion to all things coffee - and this fluffy, delightful pastry was indeed mocha flavored. Actually, considering that it tasted like coffee - it was amazingly tasty - the whipped filling was light as a feather, and the cake delicate and moist - and the toppings of nut and powdered sugar complimented it nicely. Highly recommended, unless, of course, you despise coffee flavors.

The misfortunes multiplied after I got home - as I fell victim to an intestinal-bronchial-viral thing that seems to be making the rounds- I didn't eat another bite for almost two days, which is why this post took so long! By Monday night, however, I was up to tasting some of the goodies that had been waiting for me in the fridge; a quick spin in the microwave returned these items to almost-fresh-baked goodness:

Bo Lo

Bo Lo Bao means "Pineapple Bun." However, there is no pineapple in it - the name arises from the resemblance in appearance between the top of the bun and a pineapple! The primary flavor is butter - and that is a verrry good thing.

Black Rice and Yam Bun

The name is a little deceptive, since the terms "yam" and "taro" are somewhat interchangeable.

The black rice is of the sweet and sticky variety, and the taro filling is sweet, soothing and simply wonderful.

Beef and Scallion Bun

What you see is what you get. Again, the dough is a little sweet and very airy.

Honey Cake

Well, that's what I call it anyway. Jessica slipped two slices of this soft yet toothy cake into my box. It perfectly channeled that Jewish Bakery classic Honey Cake - with fresh, plump raisins and crunchy nuts. Yum.

The next two items comprised my lunch at the office later in the week.

Beef and Cabbage Bun

As you can see, I was a little overly generous with the application of toaster oven heat (I singed the top a little).

It was still delicious - crunchy, beefy - with Panko bread crumbs on top and a lard-laden, flaky shell.

Curry Beef Pie

This little pie reminded me of the Curry Beef Triangle.

Flaky, toothy pastry surrounds a lightly curried beef filling.

This next bun was my Thursday breakfast:

Vegetable Bun

Cheese, mayonnaise, and cream are most un-Chinese ingredients that are very popular in Shanghai Bakery buns; this one had cheese and a touch of something creamy. Not sure if that is a Shanghai or a Hong Kong thing - both cities are so very cosmopolitan!

Bob and I shared the only sweet bun I'd selected after dinner last night (a spicy Pho - but that's another post):

Custard Bun

As satisfying as it looks, and again, highly recommended.

So, whether you are looking for a tasty and wallet-friendly lunch, a light supper, a cool treat or baked goods with a twist you may not have experienced before - you can't go wrong playing with the offerings at Koko Bakery. This is the third Shanghai Bakery that Cleveland has hosted since I moved here in 1995, and both Superior Bakery and Golden Bakery are sadly gone. So, it is important that we support the one Chinese Bakery that we have here - and the food and bubble tea is so good, it is very easy to do that!

Koko Bakery on Urbanspoon


  1. Interesting to see your post. People in the Cleveland area are lucky to have at least one of these bakery/cafes that have proliferated across Vncouver, Toronto, New York, SF, LA, etc. I'm not sure who told u this style is referred to as "Shanghai Bakery" but thats most definitely not the case. Theres no exact name for them but its well known that these types of baked good stores originated in Hong Kong. Being a cosmopolitan city under British rule this certain bakery culture developed and was brought along by Hong Kongers who left before the handover in 1997. The bubble tea however, is pure Taiwanese and as it became popular across Asia, many HK bakeries started to sell it as a novelty (or conversely, bubble tea shops in Taiwan selling HK pastries). I'm a Singaporean living in Ohio and over the years have travelled across many of North America's chinatowns =) Hope this sheds a bit of light on things. Cheers!

  2. @ rotiprata6 - thank you for your knowledgeable comments! I know that I saw one of these bakeries in Shanghai when I visited there in 1999, but I had heard the term "Shanghai Bakery" before I went to China. It does seem like a Hong Kong kind of thing, though. And Koko does it very well!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this! I've been thinking about going to Koko's Bakery for a while, and your post made sure that I am definitely going! :)

  4. Sigh... I miss Golden Bakery. It's such a shame that it changed hands and never reopened. That was back around the time that Koko started up, and I remember going to Koko hoping to find some of the things Golden made and being dissappointed.

    Those mochi balls filled with honey roasted peanuts and toasted coconut... Tiny flaky pastry meat pies with savory chicken and pork fillings... cream buns... so very good I could cry.

  5. Thanks for you comment, Sprouts! If you haven't tried Koko since it opened, you might want to give it another shot; they've had a few years now to hone their craft and I think they do it very well. Though I don't think I've seen any moochi balls, they do the meat pies and cream buns.

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