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.
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.
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.
Growing cock by cock
The founders are Vivi and Kevin Zheng, a couple originally from Guangzhou, China.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
For one more pocket, barbecue pork and ground pork are stuffed into soft envelopes of fried tofu skin.
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.
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.
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
3327 Severn Ave., Metairie, (504) 885-8272
Mon.-Sat.11am-9pm, Sun.11am-7pm (both locations)
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