by Jen Chen
Formosa Bakery has started selling its Taiwanese-style desserts and breads at Café Vie (10330 Metcalf, Overland Park). The casual restaurant, on the back side of the gray strip mall at 103rd Street and Metcalf, is known for its Korean, Vietnamese and Asian-inspired food.
Inside Café Vie's cool, casual space, one walk-up counter offers rice and noodle bowls (including pho), sandwiches, wraps and rolls. The other counter is for coffee, bubble tea, shaved ice and other desserts, including the additions from Formosa. Individual slices of tiramisu, Black Forest cake and cheesecake sit next to the cutesy-sounding Snow White, Puppy Love and Yellow Volcano.
What makes the desserts particularly Taiwanese? Raymond Kung, the bakery's sales and marketing guy, says chef and owner Hamlet Chang uses no preservatives and less sugar. (That, plus he trained in Taiwan.)
"You can taste the actual ingredients," Kung says. He describes the texture as "lighter and smoother." The tiramisu ($3.99), one of the bakery's best-sellers, consists of two thin cake layers bound together by a thick wedge of creamy mascarpone. The overall effect is airy, and it's well-complemented by Vietnamese coffee ($3.49; it's not on the menu, but the café can make it).
The other desserts are also light-tasting. The Snow White is a puffy white cupcake with a custard filling. The Puppy Love has a silky base that's similar to panna cotta and contrasts neatly with the bright, almost-tart citrus burst of the passion-fruit topping. The Yellow Volcano turns out to be more delicate than its name suggests: a thin, deep shell filled with smooth egg custard.
For more traditional fare, Formosa also sells an array of savory and sweet buns ($1.50). The most addictive of these is the one that stuffs a soft, eggy bread with a lightly sweetened red-bean paste. It goes well with a sugary, Thai-tea-flavored bubble tea ($4.49). According to my mom, in Taiwan, the sweet buns are usually eaten for breakfast, paired with soy milk, or for dessert.
Founded in Lawrence earlier this summer, Formosa Bakery is making the KC leap to get in front of the huge crowds frequenting the Asian markets here (including the one next door to Vie). A smaller selection of its desserts is also available at Pine & Bamboo Garden (10915 Shawnee Mission Parkway).
While the desserts are served every day at Café Vie, the breads are available only after 4 p.m. on Fridays.