Journey to the Tarts
If you’re thinking of beating the crowd by coming in at 10am on a weekday, just to get your hands on the coveted Bake cheese Tarts? Think again, buddy.
The system is completely unhackable.
For those who don’t know, BAKE Cheese Tarts is a bakery from Hokkaido, Japan that’s particularly famous for their oozy cheese tarts. They have taken the traditional way of consuming the humble cheese tart, by serving them warm and gooey, before the cream cheese has time to set completely. The juxtaposition of ultra-soft textures on a crispy pastry cup made people go bananas, gaining them massive popularity.
Since then, they have branched out and opened outlets throughout Japan and the Asian market. Hong Kong lapped it up and now it has finally arrived on our sunny shores, creating massive waves of hype.
In natural Singapore style, as soon as the stall opened, the hype was deafening and the queues began. I went to experience for myself the insane queue and to see whether it was worth the hype.
I thought I could hack the system by going there early but a queue was already forming bright and early at 10am on a Monday morning before most of the shops in ION orchard are even open. When asked, the people at the front have been queueing since 9am. Due to overwhelming response, the ION security has installed crowd control queue markers, designating two lanes in front of Watsons just for BAKE customers. Before joining the queue, a sign looms at the entrance warning you that there is no guarantee that you will be able to get your hands on the tarts because only a finite amount is made each day.
The whole thing was pretty intense.
The cordoned lines gained the stares of curious passers who later joined the queue due to sheer curiosity and the typical Singaporean kiasu mind set. Thus, the line continues to grow. Some join the queue not realizing what they were even queueing for. Most who walk by will whip out their phones to take photos of this phenomenon, so prepare to feel like a zoo animal.
Desperation is real with people at the back of the queue asking the ones in the front if they can spare them a box due to the limitations of only two boxes of tarts per person. This rule was made to ensure that one crazy buyer does not deplete the entire day’s stock. Those thinking of mass purchasing these tarts have to resort to these measures to get their hands on a third box, if they are unwilling to join the enormous queue again. Which is all fair in my book! If you want to get your hands on these tarts, you’d have to queue like everyone else.
It’s part of the experience, really.
Once at the front of the queue, I had to wait until the ‘Bake Bouncers’ get a signal via walkie-talkie allowing me to move forward to the actual store. Before he lets me go, he handed me a card that said “Confirmed: 12 pieces per one person. Please keep this ticket with you.” Another ‘Bake Bouncer’ was waiting to greet me at the store front, and only customers with tickets can proceed into the shop. This is some serious VIP shit.
I couldn’t help but feel triumphant when I finally entered the store. It’s like a marathoner finally seeing the finish line. I wanted to pump my fist and high-five everyone.
These ‘Bake Bouncers’ don’t have the easiest job, facing the zombified, tart-hungry crowd. They told me they had encountered some pretty nasty customers. In fact, the one behind me was pretty damn mean. It’s like the Walking Dead or something. We should realise that patience is not just for those queueing. These kids have it rough too.
So, was it worth the wait?
The only thing that kept me going is the wafts of cheesy, buttery goodness that go as far as the end of the queue, goading people to keep going. The tarts have a crispy sweet pastry bottom and a light fluffy cream cheese filling. The ooze was not as prominent as I thought it was going to be, which was a bit disappointing. The flavours are very rich despite its light texture but the pungent, cheesy after taste kept me from going for seconds. I don’t think I could finish an entire box, so 12 tarts per person is actually reasonable.
It tasted pretty damn amazing. But I think partly because it tasted like PURE GLORY to me, after suffering through that ordeal. I gave some to my friends at work and they told me it was good, but pretty average.
Overall, it was definitely a delicious tart. However, it’s safe to say, I will not be queueing an hour and half for it again.
Maybe I’ll drop by again, next year.