Sydney goes crazy for Uncle Tetsu's Japanese Cheesecake

Why this unassuming cake is blowing up in Sydney right now.
Why this unassuming cake is blowing up in Sydney right now. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Sydney's runaway food craze at the moment is Uncle Tetsu's Japanese Cheesecake. The international franchise was attracting monster queues before it even officially opened on Tuesday at Regent Place in the Sydney CBD.

It's the first Australian outpost of the Japanese bakery, which first launched in 1985 and now has branches in Taipei, China and Canada. Demand is so intense that a "one cake per person" rule has been instituted here, like at the other Uncle Tetsu stores. 

Sydney's obsession with Uncle Tetsu's is in no danger of dying out right now. Even on a Friday morning, there was a line at least 75 people deep - so long it looped eight times in front of the shopfront - before the bakery even began admitting customers at 11am. Some people started queuing up before employees even turned up to work today. 

Employees working on pastries at Uncle Tetsu's Japanese Cheesecake store at Regent Place.
Employees working on pastries at Uncle Tetsu's Japanese Cheesecake store at Regent Place. Photo: Lee Tran Lam

If you're wondering about the job status of people lining up during office hours for dessert on a Friday morning - well, I met many people who frankly admitted that, technically, they should've been at work instead of in an unmoving queue for cake. (But, should their bosses be reading, they were all claiming incredibly early lunch breaks.) The woman behind me at least had the excuse of being retired; she'd been deployed by her son like an Airtasker servant (although, to be honest, she was pretty pro-cheesecake and a willing participant in his dessert-procuring scheme). 

The wait is not too bad and the smell of fresh-baking cakes is incredibly welcome (or a tease, if you're crazy-hungry) - but bring earphones unless you find a soundtrack of insistent jackhammers on George Street especially calming. Public service announcement: the store is cash only, so don't turn up without a decently padded wallet. 

The best part of the queue is when you're next to the shopfront, and can score a direct look at Uncle Tetsu's uniformed employees melting chunks of butter or filling cases with batter for the honey madeleines. 

The cheesecake has been made in Japan since 1985.
The cheesecake has been made in Japan since 1985. Photo: Edwina Pickles

I get to the front after 45 minutes - and witness the woman ahead of me sneakily trying to break the "one cheesecake per person" rule by asking for two, but she is dispatched with the standard-issue one cheesecake and no more. I ask for the honey madeleines, too, but it turns out I'm 30 minutes too early for them. So if you're strategising about when you should turn up - don't get here straight after opening, because you'll need to book in another trip to get the madeleines. 

So is the Japanese cheesecake worth the hype? Can I relate to the guy who posted on the Tetsu Australia Facebook that, "I get them flown in from Toronto Canada to Santiago Chile on a regular basis"?

I've been told that the cake - which has been made with Australian cream cheese since it was first served from the original bakery in Fukuoka in the 1980s - apparently tastes remarkably different whether you have it oven-hot or let it cool. By the time I get it back to the office and it's had its camera close-up, it's not warm any more. 

In our office taste test, everyone agrees that they would not line up for it. Unlike traditional cheesecake (with its stomach-clutching intensity), Uncle Tetsu's is incredibly understated.  

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"The cake is so light, you can hear the air bubbles cracking as you slice into it," says my colleague, Sharnee Rawson.  

"The sweetness is barely there, as is the cream cheese flavour; it's a prime example of the Japanese art of subtlety."

She points out the texture is almost more important than the taste and the airiness of the cheesecake would be incredibly hard to reproduce.

I think I'm more intrigued by how they would make it, rather than by the ultra-subtle impact. The overwhelming effect is of eating an eggy sponge that's trying to impersonate a cloud. 

I think I'd go back for the honey madeleines, though.

The cake has been attracting large queues in Sydney.
The cake has been attracting large queues in Sydney. Photo: Edwina Pickles

501 George Street, Sydney, ​facebook.com/uncletetsuaustralia