During my brief stint as a study-abroad student in Shanghai, I was introduced to modern Chinese-style bakeries, where you grab a tray and a pair of tongs at the door and pluck buttery pastries and soft buns from rows and rows of display cases. I loved the autonomy of the process and wondered, “Why don’t we have these in America?”
The self-serve bakery model has finally made it to Sacramento in the form of PEGASUS BAKERY & CAFE. Chinese sweets take some adjusting to, especially if you were raised, as I was, on corn syrup and chocolate-heavy American candies and cakes. Just as my Chinese friends in Shanghai were turned off by the sickening sweetness of Dairy Queen when I bought them a round of Blizzards, I felt a little let down when I first started eating Asian desserts, which I found unsatisfyingly mild. (In fact, I was so perplexed by the lack of sweetness in one mochilike Chinese treat that I mistook it for a savory appetizer and, to everyone’s horror, poured soy sauce on it.)
Once you accept that no Chinese pastry is going to have the taste-bud smackdown you’d get from a Reese’s peanut butter cup, it becomes apparent that these desserts deliver with subtle, earthy flavors and complexity of texture. Pegasus Bakery’s dan tat, for example, has a pastry crust that flakes away at the touch but is still sturdy enough to cradle a thick, creamy, slightly toasted egg custard. The pandan roll cake, sold by the slice, is only lightly flavored with coconut and the herbaceous pandan leaf, but it is addictively soft and pillowy—a little like memory foam in terms of how pliant and tender but dense it is, if memory foam were absolutely delicious. Then there’s the grainy, barely-there sweetness of red bean paste, a classic feature of Chinese desserts and perhaps best seen as the Chinese equivalent to peanut butter. At Pegasus, the red bean paste is most enjoyable put to work in the anpanman, a brioche-like white bun stuffed with red beans and decorated to look like a man’s grinning face.
Pegasus Bakery also peddles savory items. Skip the burgers and fries and go straight for the crepes. The savory crepes are stuffed with cheese and wasabi and salmon or tuna. There’s a lot of sugar in the crepe batter, making it practically the sweetest thing on the menu. That caramelized sweetness hot off the griddle, when paired with spicy mayo and a sharp cheese, is weird, even disorienting, but oddly addictive.
- Tuna Crepe ($6)
- Anapanman ($1.50)
- Pandan Roll Slice ($1.50)
- Almond Cookie ($1.25)
- Walnut Cupcake ($2.50)
6285 Stockton Blvd.; (916) 662-7733