Tokyo’s Favorite Soufflé Pancakes Have Made Their Way to America
The Harajuku-favorite chain Flipper's just opened in New York.
One of the biggest culinary trends to hit Japan in the last half decade has officially touched down in New York. Flipper’s—one of Tokyo’s most famous soufflé pancake chains—debuted its inaugural North America outlet on September 27 in Soho. Replacing a former real estate office, in a 2,500-square-foot, bi-level corner plot on West Broadway at Grand Street, Flipper’s marks the United States’ second soufflé pancake outfit, following this past spring’s debut of Gram Café and Pancakes in San Francisco.
But, what is a soufflé pancake?
Made from an airy, whipped egg white-rich soufflé-like batter, soufflé pancakes are exactly as their name suggests: ethereally light and fluffy, griddled—and sometimes steamed—thicker-style pancakes (sometimes cooked in a round mold to maintain shape and height), served with a variety of toppings, from honey butter to maple butter, or simply whipped cream and fresh fruit. In Tokyo, many cafés only prepare a set number of pancake portions per day. Keen imbibers must either queue up, or drop in to write one’s name on a list with time slots, and then return later when it’s one’s turn.
Where did this trend start?
While it’s not entirely clear where this trend began, some say that the soufflé pancake has roots in the U.S., specifically in Hawaii. In 1974, Jan and Jerry Fukunaga founded a pancake-centered diner in Honolulu called Eggs ‘n Things, and in 2010 the brand expanded to Tokyo, introducing more Japanese people to the American-style pancake. Around this time, Rainbow Café debuted in what has become Tokyo’s unofficial soufflé pancake district, Harajuku, serving as one of the city’s earliest soufflé pancake pioneers. Today, Harajuku and nearby Omotesandō count numerous soufflé pancake options, like A Happy Pancake, Micasadeco&Cafe, Gram, and, of course, Flipper’s.
So, what’s the deal with Flipper’s in New York?
Compared to its locations in Japan (of which there are seven, with additional outlets in Hong, Kong, Korea, and Taiwan), Flipper’s in New in York is the brand’s first branch to weave in inspiration from its locale. That translates to a two-floor café, with the ground floor offering a perched, six-seat dining bar and counter-service geared to grab and go. Meanwhile, the Flipper’s team designed their upper level café space to look like a Soho loft, with exposed brick, white subway tile, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
In order to replicate their soufflé pancakes in New York, the team carefully researched ingredients which would yield a delicate, creamy pancake exactly like what they serve in Japan. While Flipper’s tested 20 different egg brands before they decided upon a cage-free producer, they opted to import the same high-gluten wheat flour they use in Japan.
Of course, Flipper’s in New York is serving the café’s signature trio of soufflé pancakes, crowned with maple-flavored whipped cream and powdered sugar, but they’ve also introduced a slate of new dishes they think will appeal to the American market. Expect menu additions such as chicken and waffles pancakes, prosciutto pancakes, and a strawberries and cream version that involves their soufflé pancakes layered with strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and cloaked under strawberry cream. Note, that every batch of pancakes takes 20 minutes to prepare, so don’t come in expecting a super quick meal. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Flipper’s does not accept reservations. And while there is no alcohol at the moment, a license is underway.
The Flipper’s team says that the United States is the home of the pancake, and therefore they wanted to challenge the market. Looks like the trend has come full circle, with a Japanese interpretation of an American classic.