Only a few months ago, a new space serving unique high-quality desserts opened around the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers Street in Chinatown. Bordering the Lower East Side, The Little One brings a whole new vibe to the area with its contemporary look and Japanese-inspired menu. Married couple and owners, Olivia Leung and Eddie Zheng, had always wanted to open a place of their own after studying at the Institute of Culinary Education and working besides renowned chefs and bakers at Dominique Ansel, Tour Les Jours, La Sirena, and The Elm. While traveling in Asia for inspiration, they were especially blown away by Japan’s attention to detail and the quality of ingredients in their productions. “We wanted our store to be similar in a sense where we really care about our ingredients and the aesthetics of the space,” Olivia explained as I asked her how her trip shaped her business. “When we went to Japan we loved how simple, modern, and clean ALL the little cafes, coffee shops, dessert shop , and sushi restaurants were. They’ve incorporated a lot of wood, white, and even concrete. So with our space, we wanted to use all those aesthetics and put it into our space.” Though decorations are soon to come, The Little One really does present a beautiful clean space to catch up with a friend or to experiment some new flavors.
If one is not used to desserts in Japan, a menu can be difficult to decipher, so I asked Olivia to explain what some of her signature dishes are (and means). Here is the breakdown:
Pictured above are the strawberry and the matcha Kakigōri, a Japanese shaved ice that has an icier texture than other types.”Traditionally, kakigōri is made with flavored syrups,” Olivia explained. “But now there are some places in Japan that takes it one step further and garnishes with creams and fruit sauces or other textural elements. This is where we got inspired to take something very traditional in Japan to make it our own but still keep some Japanese roots. For example, we love using matcha and hojicha (traditional Japanese teas) and we get them from Kettl, a tea shop based in Williamsburg that sources tea from their farms in Japan everyday!” To further make the dessert their own, they have also experimented using some Chinese influences such as the coconut pudding that one may find at dim sum. This resulted in the Coconut Kakigōri.
Pictured here is the Dorayaki, fluffy pancakes made with honey that traditionally contain a red bean paste filling. Similar to their take on the Kakigōri, Olivia and Eddie wanted to take the traditional recipe and make it their own by using different fillings. With the most recent menu, they added a red bean cake with matcha cream, chocolate coconut inspired by the Mounds candy bar, and pineapple caramelized in brown sugar and spices with yogurt cream and shortbread crumble.
Above is the unique and light Monaka, thin crispy wafer shells made out of rice flour that are popular in Japan. They are traditionally served with red bean paste, but at the Little One, they are incorporated with ice cream flavors based on likes and seasons. Currently, they used buckwheat and chrysanthemum. Why these flavors? “Buckwheat has a toasted and roast flavor that we wanted while chrysanthemum is a flower perfect for spring,” Olivia answered. “It’s also a tea that Eddie and I grew up drinking at dimsum and from boxed drinks. We wanted to keep it simple but thought that adding a local honey from the Union Square Market will also enhance the dessert.”
While these beautifully crafted, made in-house desserts already have flavors attractive to many, expect some to change every so often as they have a seasonal menu in addition to their regular one. With Eddie’s love for technical aspect as well as working with hydrocolloids in desserts and Olivia’s love and feel for breads and pastries, the two are always concocting and improving their dishes with the best quality ingredients. “The best part of this business is that Eddie and I love doing what we do,” Olivia said. “Everywhere we go we are intrigued by new and different ingredients that we have never come across before. As they say, if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life!”
Be sure to check out The Little One if you get a chance. A special thanks to Olivia and Eddie for allowing me to share their story with Lilspirations and sharing the photos that I am not able to take during this maternity time! As always, thanks for reading! xoxo
Picture credits for this post:
Dorayaki (Vicky Lee)
strawberry kakigōri (Jacky Chen)
behind the scenes ( Jennah Moon)
chrysanthemum (Alan Li)
matcha kakigōri (Alan Li)