A tiny new dessert spot called The Little One with lots of cred just rolled into the LES — with an inaugural menu hinging on wagashi, traditional Japanese confections typically served with tea. Pastry chefs and longtime friends Olivia Leung and Eddie Zheng, who’ve worked at places like Dominique Ansel Bakery and Wd~50, opened the five table cafe at 150 East Broadway, near Rutgers Street, in December.
The Little One’s nine-item menu currently reads entirely Japanese. One will find kakigori, Japanese shaved ice drizzled with hojicha (a type of roasted green tea) caramel and lime zest, plus a matcha rendition with white chocolate espuma.
Dorayaki, a common Japanese dessert that resembles a mini pancake sandwich, comes filled with confit honeycrisp apples and mascarpone, or sweet potato cake and a spiced cream. Monaka — an unflavored rice wafer shell typically stuffed with red bean and/or ice cream — is filled here with soba-cha (toasted buckwheat) ice cream and chocolate fudge or parsnip ice cream with burned honey caramel.
Tea plays a large role in The Little One: Patrons can eat tea-flavored sweets while sipping tea beverages, like matcha and hojicha. There’s also a malted hot chocolate made with 72 percent Guittard cacao and flavored with cardamom. Going forward, Zheng and Leung plan to swap some desserts seasonally, while others will remain house staples. They have no plans to add savory items.
Though the menu is Japanese now, Zheng says that he doesn’t want to be labeled as a “Japanese dessert shop.” In the future, he and Leung plan to “create desserts that may be more relatable to the daily consumer,” like cakes and tarts flavored with non-Asian ingredients. Regardless, all teas on offer — and those that likewise flavor many sweets — are Japanese, sourced via Brooklyn-based importer, Kettl.
Asian-flavored sweets concepts have been taking over New York in the last year or so, like Japanese ice cream swirler Taiyaki NYC, Korean shaved ice vendor BingBox, and Hong Kong-style egg cone concept Wowfulls. Then there’s Japanese-French Lady M Confections, lauded for its layered crêpe cakes, plus newer Japanese export Harbs, know for its creamy fruit-studded cakes. Stalwarts like Japanese fusion dessert tasting menu counter ChikaLicious and tea and wagashi house Cha-an have also both been serving Japanese sweets for about a decade.
But though versions of the wagashi on offer at The Little One can be found elsewhere around the city — Suzuki offers ice cream and mochi-filled monaka, while Midtown’s sweets shop Minamoto Kitchoan has sold packaged dorayaki — this Manhattan cafe serves homemade versions with a new, sophisticated edge.