The other day I had the pleasure of visiting Sun Flour Bagel, at 6955 El Camino Real in Carlsbad (in the Vons shopping center, across from the post office). My iFriend hifisamurai had contacted me, wondering if I’d like to post a review of the shop. I jumped at the chance, because I had been there once before, and enjoyed what I had.
Sun Flour Bagel will celebrate their four year anniversary in June, and I'm kicking myself for missing their first 3.5 years. Besides the regular bagel shop offerings, they have Japanese pastries on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The rush starts at 11am, and they usually sell out by noon. So if you want to get your hands on some of these goodies, get there early!
Sun Flour Bagel has a loyal Japanese clientele for the pastries, and a loyal American clientele for the bagels, but the owner, Mr. Numata, is looking to bridge the gap, and get more Americans to try the Japanese pastries. And so they should, for these are delicious, and most likely different from anything you've ever tasted.
I asked about the bread, and what makes it special. Mr. Numata told me (with help from his employee Sayoko as translator) that the Japanese have the perception that good = soft, and hard = bad. He had me squeeze a loaf of his bread – this is definitely not Wonderbread, people. It’s pillowy and squishy and airy, the softest, lightest bread I’ve ever seen. Mr. Numata said that he doesn’t know how to make the typical “hard” American bread, but that it did take him some time to get the recipe right for his Japanese bread, due to the ingredients available here. He said a lot of the texture has to do with the water – American water is hard (i.e. full of minerals), while Japanese water is soft – and also that the flour must be high in gluten to get the proper texture.
All the sweet buns (or pan, which means bread in Japanese) are made with this bread dough, are sweet but not too sweet, and are stuffed with various fillings. Japanese pastries are typically much less sweet than American baked goods, but Mr. Numata adds a little more sugar than is traditional to his pastries, to better fit the American palate. I tried the green tea cream and red bean pan, and the custard cream pan. Both were delicious.
I also sampled the croquette pan, consisting of potato and vegetable croquettes, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried, and tucked into a bun with cabbage. The bread crumbs for the croquettes are made from the loaves of Japanese bread, grated while still fresh. Sayoko told me that the crumbs don’t work as well if they’re dried or flaked very small, because they absorb too much oil when fried.
But my favorite hands down has to be the curry pan– a light bread shell, filled with a mildly spicy curry (don’t think Indian curry, folks, this is Japanese all the way), and fried until golden. Fried, but not greasy in the slightest. And they reheat very well in a 350 degree oven. So stock up if you can.
Also on offer is the yakisoba pan - yakisoba and cabbage in a bun, topped with shredded pickled ginger.
And for more sweets, try a melon pan or a red bean pan. I didn't taste either one, but a coworker said "that's some good stuff".
There's also the cream cheese French toast pan, made from the thickly sliced bread, with a layer of jam in the middle.
And finally, the sausage cheese pan, which made me think of a grown-up version of pigs in a blanket.
All of the pastries run from $1.75 to $2.80 - a better deal cannot be found in La Costa!
There are sandwiches available, including the special tonkatsu sandwich, which isn’t on the menu, and is made to order. Call it on the “secret menu”, if you wish.
And, just to prove to you all that they serve typical bagel shop goodies, here are some menu shots:
Bottom line: If you find yourself in Carlsbad, stop by Sun Flour Bagel. Whether you get a bagel or a pastry, it's money well spent, and your taste buds will thank you.
Note: I was not compensated monetarily for this review; however, all the goods in the pictures were provided to me free of charge by Sun Flour Bagel (and subsequently shared with my happy and grateful coworkers).