Since Takeshi Takata opened the first Gram Pancakes in Osaka, Japan in 2014, his three-tiered jiggly pillow-like soufflé pancakes served with fresh whipped cream, butter and maple syrup have become Insta-famous.
Now, Sydneysiders get to find out what all the fuss is about with the opening of the first Australian store at Chatswood Interchange. It adds to the 60-plus stores the Japanese cult chain already has across Asia and North America.
Master franchisee of Gram Australia Michael Shi tells SBS Food, "In Japan, it's really popular because the signature product is a fluffy soufflé pancake that looks quite unique and is really different from the traditional pancakes."
"As we know, pancakes are not only traditional food in Australia but also all western countries. What we've done is use our own recipe and mix it with different flavours to make this quite a unique product."
The idea of bringing the Japanese cult chain to Australia for Shi was serendipitous.
"I personally know the president of Gram [Takeshi Takata] through family relations. And so I got in touch with him and thought it would be an amazing product to bring to Australia so all the people can try it.
"The thing about Australia is that we live in a multicultural society with a passion for great food from all different countries," he says.
The store uses the same pancake mix and griddle, which are imported from Japan, like every other Gram store around the world to make sure each pancake is the same size, texture and flavour as the original.
"The thing about Australia is that we live in a multicultural society with a passion for great food from all different countries."
The other trick, Shi says, is in the cooking technique, which involves whipping the egg-white heavy batter until its extra airy and then steaming each pancake under individual metal domes while also cooking it until it's golden.
Shi adds, however, it's also about making sure the mix doesn't get too airy.
"If it's too airy, it would feel like you’re eating nothing...it'll feel like the froth on top of a beer, which isn't good," he says.
The cooking processes can take up to half-an-hour, much like how it would be for a soufflé, Shi says.
"We need to control the cooking time because we need to keep the moisture in the inside without it being undercooked," he says.
"We've seen others try to make it where it's really soft but in the middle, it's still raw. For our standard that's not good. We want to keep it moist without it being undercooked, but still soft on the outside without it being overcooked."
The team was taught how to perfectly replicate the cooking process and the pancakes through rigorous training: once by flying to Japan to Gram’s original store in Shinsaibashi, Osaka and again when Gram's executive chef Teruyuki Masumura flew from Japan to Sydney.
There are eight pancake flavours to choose from, including the super fluffy and airy premium pancakes and the classic pancakes in tiramisu, matcha, coconut custard, mixed berry, caramelised banana and honey apple with earl grey cream.
While the speciality pancakes are the main attraction, there's much more on the menu than the premium pancakes, including French toast in plain, choco-banana or mixed berries, parfaits and smoothies.
But it's not all for the sweet tooth, the menu has savoury pancakes, too. For instance, there's salmon and avocado pancakes, chilli beans pancakes and bacon and scrambled eggs. And if you can't decide, there's the trinity plate with three different pancake offerings on the one plate served with soup of the day.
Shop 67, 436 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood
Gram is offering takeaway during the lockdown period and the team has pulled together a special takeaway menu, which includes their fluffy souffle in original, strawberry, match or chocolate, as well as tiramisu cup and parfait cup.
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