My first cheese tart hit was at Pablo in Tokyo's Harajuku district. Lured by the promise of espresso, I waited in line and watched the diligent staff carefully ferrying hot tarts from oven to bench and realised that it wasn't coffee that was drawing the crowds. I snagged a mini version, and was blown away after biting into the short, buttery pastry and molten, just-sweet cheese filling. Bloody good breakfast snack indeed.
It's not just me who thinks so - chains such as Bake, Toyko Secret and Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts are bonkers popular overseas, and now the latter chain is bringing Cheese Tart Fever down under.
Malaysia-based parent company the ST Group, best known for their PappaRich chain, has opened HBCT stores in Box Hill and Chadstone in Melbourne, and will open at World Square Shopping Centre in Sydney on December 23 - which is the same day the delayed launch of the QV Melbourne store will take place. The original store in Malaysia apparently moves 20,000 tarts a day.
A press release claims that the HBCT recipe uses "three different types of time-honoured cheeses" (but declined to tell us exactly what kinds). Hokkaido, an island off the north of Japan, is famous for its prized dairy, hence the tart's name, but in Australia, the chain will use locally sourced dairy to replicate the flavour.
So, should you commit your hard-earned holiday hours to standing in line to try the tart yourself? Unlike Uncle Tetsu's Japanese Cheesecake, which opened to similar fanfare in July, you can buy more than one at time. You can buy six, in fact, at $3.90 each.
Based on other cheese tart adventures, I'd describe the style of treat as more, well, tart, than a traditional cheese cake, with a pronounced cream cheese flavour, slight sweetness and heavy creaminess - not dissimilar to the Tetsu's cake. The kicker is the textural difference - gooey, oozy creaminess on crisp buttery pastry is a winner. And if you really hate lines, look into Airtasker.
Both World Square and QV branches open from 11.30am on Friday, December 23.
World Square, 644 Street, Sydney; QV Corner Swanston and Lonsdale Streets, Melbourne, facebook.com/hokkaidoau.