The Westfield Santa Anita is currently home to the most interesting mall food court in L.A. County, and the stall with the longest lines, at any time, is Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake.
These steamed confections couldn't be more simple, but they've caused sensations from East Asia to Canada to Hawaii to now, finally, Arcadia. Made with sugar, flour, eggs and "Australian cheese," the cake batter is poured into high-walled cake pans that are set in a water bath and baked in an oven for about 30 minutes.
After watching a video made in Taiwan about Uncle Tetsu cheesecakes, we suspect that the cheese is more or less the same cream cheese used to make American-style cheesecakes. But Uncle Tetsu's crustless version is extremely light and fluffy: sort of a spongecake, but with an egg-forward flavor reminiscent of a custard.
Customers cannot buy more than two cheesecakes at a time. Which seems like plenty, as 10 slices could easily be made of one cake. On the other hand ... people have probably eaten an entire cake in one go. You know how when a food craze gets out of hand and you don't want to believe the hype? Well, these cheesecakes really are among the best desserts you'll ever have.
Each one is branded with the Uncle Tetsu logo. (Above, you'll see that the top of the cake can sometimes stick to the box lid, which is one of life's great disappointments. Below is what the cake is meant to look like.) Fresh out of the oven, the cake is truly airy, and rich with the flavor of sugar and eggs.
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After a few hours, the cake becomes more dense, and the cheese becomes the dominant flavor. Either way, it is a dessert experience worth trying; not very sweet, very compelling.
I would never tell anyone to wait in line for something frivolous for dessert, but at least this line moves quickly. And the cheesecake is as delicious as you've heard.