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The Quest for the Fluffiest Japanese Pancakes

If you’ve never had a Japanese souffle pancake, just imagine biting into a warm, soft, fluffy cloud.

When you go to Osaka, there is one thing that you absolutely must do: EAT.

The real reason Osaka became known as “Japan’s Kitchen” was that it was the central port area where goods were distributed for export and local sale, but the variety of delicious food the city has to offer has redefined the meaning of the title over the decades. While I could regale you with stories of the creamiest soft serve ice cream I have ever had in my life (bless you, Cremia), or the steak that melted like butter in my mouth (bless you, Yakiniku M), allow me to talk about our quest for Osaka’s fluffiest pancakes.

The Legend of Fluffy Pancakes

My husband and I heard about fluffy pancakes shortly after booking our flight to Osaka. The third member of our travel party of three was my husband’s business partner, and he was in Osaka just last year. He sent us a list of places to eat. Number one on the list was a place called Grams, known for its fluffy pancakes.

Premium Pancakes by Grams Cafe
Photo by Kirby Gonzaga

If you’ve never had a Japanese souffle pancake, just imagine biting into a warm, soft, fluffy cloud that’s lightly pan-toasted outside and light and airy on the inside. 

We were told that it was really something that you had to experience yourself to understand. And so the quest began.

The First Encounter: Hoshino Coffee

We wound up in Hoshino Coffee purely by accident, when we were walking back to our Airbnb after exploring Shinsaibashi. My husband said he wanted coffee, but he hadn’t spotted an interesting cafe while we were walking around. Luckily I remembered a chalkboard sign we happened to pass by hours earlier that said “drip coffee”. So we retraced our steps through Shinsaibashi until I spotted the sign again. Aside from the small sign that read “drip coffee”, Hoshino Coffee also had signs listing their menu items, including souffle pancakes. We figured it was worth a try.

We had to climb a flight of stairs to get to the cafe, and its interiors weren’t quite what we imagined when we saw their quaint-looking chalkboard sign. The place was dark and classy, looking more like an old timey whisky bar than a cafe.

Once we were comfortably seated, we browsed the menu and decided to order their souffle pancakes with chocolate ganache and ice cream.

Pancake Souffle Style with Chocolate Ganache and Ice Cream by Hoshino Coffee
Photo by Dwight Santos

Hoshino Coffee’s pancakes were firmer and more toasted than what you’d expect of a Japanese souffle pancake, but they were not bad at all, plus the chocolate syrup complemented them so well. This, combined with their delicious hand-drip coffee, absolutely made my day.

We also got our first taste of the excellent Japanese customer service at Hoshino Coffee. When my husband accidentally knocked over his iced coffee, the staff promptly cleaned up the mess and returned with a fresh mug—free of charge.

The Happy Mistake: A Happy Pancake

On our second day, my husband and I unexpectedly walked past Grams cafe while exploring America-Mura. We made a mental note of where it was, and said we’d come back for it later. After checking out the sneakers and other neat streetwear available in the area, we went back for those fluffy pancakes. We got to the street where we saw Grams, followed the signboard that had lovely photos of fluffy pancakes, descended a flight of stairs, and walked straight into…

A Happy Pancake. Not Grams Cafe, but A Happy Pancake.

We only realized our mistake once we were already seated and browsing the menu. How we missed their name on the signs on our way in, I still can’t say. We felt bad for not realizing this right away, and since we were already sitting at a table, we figured we’d give their pancakes a try anyway.

Pancake with Milk Tea Sauce and Homemade Granola by A Happy Pancake
Photo by El Santos

Our mistake turned out to be a happy one, because their pancakes were really good! Compared to Hoshino and Grams (yes, we did manage to try Grams—more on that later!), A Happy Pancake’s Japanese souffle pancakes were a lot eggier, but they were much softer all around than Hoshino’s. What really impressed us was the milk tea sauce, which was mildly sweet and went really well with the egginess of the pancakes.

Final Boss: Grams Cafe

Barely even three hours after mistakenly walking into A Happy Pancake (and after a quick steak dinner at Ikinari Steak), we walked into Grams at 5:45pm to wait for their premium pancakes. These were only served at specific times of day (11:00 am, 3:00 pm, and 6:00 pm), and orders were limited to only 20 per time slot.

So were they worth the wait?

Premium Pancakes by Gram Cafe
Photo by El Santos

Oh, yes. Just thinking about them and writing this now is making my mouth water. 

With the first bite, I fully understood why our friend had it at the very top of his list of recommendations. These were the fluffiest, lightest pancakes I had ever had in my entire life. This was probably the closest I would ever get to biting into a fluffy cumulus cloud. Gram’s Premium Pancakes were served only with confectioners’ sugar, syrup, margarine, and whipped cream, but that’s really all you need. No frills, no fancy flavors. Just pure souffle pancake heaven.

Given how good their pancakes were, we were surprised to find the cafe empty when we arrived. Maybe it was because 6:00 pm was too close to dinner time, and most people didn’t want to ruin their appetite. Coincidentally, the only other customers to walk in for the 6:00 pm time slot were a Filipino couple who kept saying how masarap (delicious) the pancakes were. Cheers to you, mga kabayan!

The End of the Adventure…Or Is It?

On our way back to Manila, I lamented all the glorious food I was going to miss. Fresh sashimi at Kuromon Market, creamy soft serve ice cream from Cremia, and fancy steak dinner at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M aside, I knew I was going to miss those fluffy pancakes.

But lo and behold: Japanese souffle pancakes have found their way to Philippine shores as well. There’s in Ayala Malls Manila Bay, and even Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory is getting in on the fluffy pancake action. Looks like our next quest will be to try the local souffle pancakes and see how they measure up to the ones we tried in Japan!