Uptown cottage becomes a dim sum patio for dumplings, soup, cakes | Where NOLA Eats

Tender dumpling wrappers enclosed with a delicate mix of shrimp, crab and ginger. Glass noodles swirl through a hot pot of seafood and broth dappled with fiery chili oil. Cakes and tarts look too artistic to eat, at least for a moment, but when you do they hit that elusive balance of sweet yet not too sweet.







The Szechuan seafood hot pot arrives as a composed soup with shrimp, crab strick and noodles at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


This mix of dessert and dim sum is the hallmark of Wishing Town Bakery Café, which has swiftly grown from its start as a home-based business.

The second Wishing Town location opened March 10 as a patio café on a busy Uptown corner of Magazine Street.







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A selection of dim sum fill the table at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The address is a Victorian cottage that for three decades was home to Café Luna, before that coffee shop closed in the pandemic. It’s a setting that finally seems to match the beauty and intricacy of Wishing Town creations.







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The Uptown location for Wishing Town Bakery Cafe in New Orleans has a large patio under a leafy oak tree and a wrap around porch. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


Growing cock by cock

The founders are Vivi and Kevin Zheng, a couple originally from Guangzhou, China.







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Kevin and Vivi Zheng, shown here at their Metairie location of Wishing Town Bakery Cafe, expanded to Uptown in 2022. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).



Vivi started making egg tarts at home, selling them mostly to other Chinese families. This highly-discerning audience approved, and Vivi’s repertoire kept growing with special requests for evermore elaborate cakes.

By 2018, the Zhengs opened their own bakery, and soon added a savory dim sum menu. It remained an out-of-the-way find in a strip mall on David Drive in Metairie, somewhat overshadowed by the standard American-Chinese takeout restaurant next door.







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Egg yolk puff pastry have salted egg yolk inside layers of crisp pastry, in flavors including taro (split open to show the yolk), sweet red bean, coconut and black sesame, at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


But they soon moved to a new location near Lakeside Shopping Center, in the address that had long been Morning Call Coffee Stand. It was one of many restaurant projects underway when the pandemic arrived, and the Zhengs managed to open in stages in the spring of 2020, starting with takeout.

A dim sum patio

The new Uptown location has the same menu, from the dim sum to the cakes, but the setting makes this feel like a much different restaurant.







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The Uptown location of Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street has a wrap-around porch overlooking the patio. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The interior is small, with a handful of tables over a pair of parlors. Most seating is outdoors.

The wrap-around porch now looks over a new patio of decking and café tables. Table umbrellas and a large arching oak give shade; solar powered light fixtures illuminate the patio at night.







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A selection of dim sum, seaweed noodle salad, seafood hot pot and egg yolk puff pastry fill the table at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The restaurant uses table service, and soon after opening it will begin using a semi-automated system to assist. From a device at the table, customers can press different buttons to request service, get a takeout box or settle the bill.

The second location is a big step, but Aisha Chen, business partner and manager for this location, said the spark came from customer feedback. Many bosses from the early days were driving out from the city.

When they were limited to takeout only at the start of the pandemic, the Zhengs learned that their dim sum and other dishes could stand up to travel. They expect that takeout orders will be a big part of the Uptown business, especially when weather rules out patio dining.

Bundles of flavor

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Steamed buns are filled with pork or beef at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The dumplings are delightful anyway you get them, and the menu has grown steadily. The silver dollar-sized steam buns filled with pork or beef and a little ginger and scallion scented juice are familiar enough. And then there are dumpling pockets, served with their fillings overflowing from the noodle wrappers.







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Spicy crawfish pocket dumplings are filled with crab and topped with crawfish and hot sauce at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


One with crawfish tails and hot chili sauce over a spoonful of sweet crab meat feels like a Louisiana crossover contender. A cheeseburger version brings the unlikely combination of beef, crumbled bacon and melted mozzarella tucked within the dumpling.







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Cheeseburger dumplings are filled with beef, bacon and cheese at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


For one more pocket, barbecue pork and ground pork are stuffed into soft envelopes of fried tofu skin.







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Char siu tofu pockets are made with fried tofu wrappers filled with Cantonese barbecue pork and ground pork at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The restaurant serves soft drinks only; the partners remain sure about BYOB status right now.

Inside the cafe, a dessert counter is lined with a colorful array of sweets, including mini cakes already boxed up by the slice.







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Rainbow mille crepe cake by the slice, with many crepe layers separated by cream, at Wishing Town Bakery Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The mille crepe cakes are stacks of wafer-thin crêpes separated by cream that all dissolves together of the palate.

The egg yolk puff pastries are shaped like eggs with salted yolks at their centers, encased in crispy pastry and different flavored fillings, like black sesame or sweet red bean. The bakery’s party-sized sheet cakes are topped with lush landscapes of cream dollops, fruit slices, frosting flowers, real flowers and macaroons.







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Cake with lush toppings of fruit, frosting and flowers are the calling card of Wishing Town Bakery Cafe in Metairie.




The Zhengs first arrived at the name Wishing Town through a creative blend of Chinese and English.

They started with the term wei xin tang, which they explained as summing up their dedication and aspiration for the bakery. When they spoke the words, they sounded like “wishing town,” and they heard a synchronicity with their hopeful ambition. It even sounded right for cakes, the types someone might make a wish over before cutting in.

Wishing Town Bakery Cafe

802 Nashville Ave., (504) 533-9166

and

3327 Severn Ave., Metairie, (504) 885-8272

Mon.-Sat.11am-9pm, Sun.11am-7pm (both locations)

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