In traditional Japanese aesthetics, there's a range of terms that have been coined which could apply perfectly to everyday life. There’s wabi sabi — the celebration of imperfection. There's yuugen — our emotional response to nature. And thanks to Masamitsu Sakimoto, the founder of Pablo – the cult Tokyo cheese tart chain that recently opened its first Australian store on Sydney’s George Street – there’s also odorokashi. It’s the idea that a dessert should be more than just delicious; it should also deliver the eater an element of surprise.
“The original idea that Sakimoto-san had was, ‘everyone likes cakes, so why don’t we bake cheesecakes that are cooked like steaks, rare or medium-rare?” says Anthony Tow, general manager of Pablo in Australia. “To clarify, that doesn’t mean that they’re not well-cooked! They’re light and fluffy with a shortcrust base. [The element of surprise] has to do with the texture. The name Pablo is inspired by Pablo Picasso. Picasso was an artist who interpreted things his own way as opposed to following the rules.”
Sure, the last 12 months have seen an influx of Japanese cheese tart brands setting up in Australia. But if the queues brewing outside Pablo are anything to go by, our appetite for oven-hot cream cheese tarts and wobbly, feather-light cheesecakes in countless variations, isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
At Pablo’s, you can sample a classic or crème brulee-inspired version along with chocolate and matcha. (Although as far as portable desserts go, we’d recommend the mini option over the original.) When you bite into these tarts, they’re viscous and creamy, like a blessing from the dessert gods. For Tow, it’s this singular quality that sets Pablo apart.
“Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecakes are more like sponge cakes whereas we are more gooey — one isn’t better than the other, we each take a different approach,” laughs Tow, adding that the chain hopes to expand to capital cities around Australia and that a second store is already in the works. “We’re a lot runnier than a traditional cheesecake. But if you don’t like that consistency, it will stiffen up if you put it in the fridge. We use a lot of strict timing standards and ingredients to measure the density. We’re also trying to avoid that heavy New York cheesecake kind of texture and come up with a completely different kind of product.”
Pablo Tokyo created this incredible video showcasing their tarts:
For Pablo, odorokashi isn’t limited to texture; it extends to creating unexpected flavours that challenge what a cheese tart should be.
“In Japan, they bring out seasonal tarts every month and we’re not just talking about a little bit of strawberry — they produce really dramatic, beautiful cakes,” Tow says. “For example, in Okinawa they grow a sweet potato that’s very specific to the Okinawan community and you can’t buy this version of the cheese tart anywhere else in the country.
"In Australia, we’ll only produce around 30 of these special cheese tarts daily. For example, we could produce a cheese tart made from mango, which is seasonal at the end of the year. We’ve been joking about bringing out a Vegemite cheese tart, although that probably won’t happen. We already have three new products lined up in the next three months.”
We have Japan to thank for a range of philosophies that make more sense of the world.
Pablo is open daily, 11am - 10pm.
605 George Street, Sydney (entry via Goulburn Street)