Six years in New York, and I somehow missed experiencing a lot of sweet and savory crazes of the city’s local foodies. It’s laughably lamentable considering I did not miss Jeremy Scott‘s after-parties, for Fashion Week, two years in a row (for both the spring and winter presentations). Witnessed the aspiring renegades of the eventually imploded movement of Occupy Wall Street skateboard, bike, and march from Soho to Tribeca one summer afternoon. I’ve even eaten at hole in the wall diners like Cup & Saucer in Chinatown. But I couldn’t get myself to stand in line at 6:30AM for a cronut at Dominique Ansel’s bakery. Get a Sprinkles cupcake from a vending machine in Midtown. Taste my preferred flavoring of strawberry cream cheese on a rainbow bagel from Brooklyn. Or, currently, try one of Black Tap’s toppling, Tower of Pisa-esque milkshakes that overwhelmingly include gumballs and a huge slice of cake.
I have recently, however, given into the you’ve got to eat it to believe hoopla of the Raindrop Cake.
The Raindrop Cake is a slightly larger, lightly re-imagined version of the Mizi Shingen Mochi dessert, by Darren Wong. The Mizi is a water-based rice cake or mochi, and it was the official IT treat of Japan in 2015. Yet prior to last year, the pastry had been an underground hit with Asian-American chefs. What Wong did was popularize the intriguing looking delicacy to hypebeasts stateside.
The Raindrop Cake sits like an overprivileged cat on a mat, but this time on a wooden tray, as it is often advertised. It appears even more translucent than your average gelatin.
This past weekend, I made a deliberate stop into Brooklyn’s Williamsburg to try the Raindrop, as on Saturdays, it is available at the summer-based food market Smorgasbord. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a line or a fee to get into the market. I just walked in and was welcomed to perused all the options from classic grilled chicken sandwiches to elaborate hot dogs.
In about five minutes, I found the Raindrop Cake, all quiet, and subtle and few steps away from the deemed “21+” sad looking fake bar area. Maybe because it was 4PM, the line was short. But I was also a month late to being a part of this New York phenomenon. New Yorkers had likely already eaten their Raindrops in May.
The asking price was $8 and there were two options: Green Tea and brown sugar. While waiting, I overheard the cashier tell a customer ahead to swirl a bit of the liquid that comes with it. When it was my turn, I asked the cashier which would be best to try if you never had the Raindrop. She recommended “Green Tea.” I gave my $8 and in minutes, had a Raindrop Cake in a small light beige tray. And there it was looking exactly what many said online: a blob. A breast implant.
I immediately noticed that in the beautiful 70-something weather it had already begun to sweat. So I power walked to a picnic table.
Testing out the Raindrop didn’t cause me to have a conniption as much as Per Se did for The New York Times back in January. But I got to tell you: I really didn’t like it. I think it’s great that Wong was inspired to introduce an international pastry to Americans and somehow got it to be a trending food topic. Yet as the consumer or eater, here, my taste buds were beyond disappointed. The Raindrop doesn’t taste like a damn thing which was expected. But not even the green tea syrup on one side and powdered soybean on the other saved the bland gummy feel from tasting like cardboard air. Even the initial excitement of seeing it in person wore off by the second bite. By the fifth, I straight hated it and I gulped the water that was left in my water bottle with every spoonful I took. Truthfully, I am a pluviophile and I really thought the Raindrop concept was cool and adorable. Alas, we did not go together. After what was approximately the sixth or seventh bite in which I thought a minor upchuck could’ve occurred, I got up from the table and dropped a good half of what was left into the trash.
As I welcomingly took a stroll towards the beach area of the food market, amongst the Brooklynites who were sunbathing and chilling, I thought: “Damn! Where did this Raindrop Cake thing go wrong?” If it wasn’t for having found an original pressing of Prince‘s Parade at the nearby flea and Etsy market earlier off of Kent Avenue, my Williamsburg afternoon would’ve been a semi-bust.
Can I say I’m willing to give it another try? Maybe later this summer? I’m not sure. I still want to like it. But maybe they can somehow get the condiments of the syrup and powder inside the Raindrop instead. It could look like some cool flowers emerged inside an amber rock kind of mini food exhibit. (I’m reaching). Generally speaking, I’ll always love me some Japanese dishes and bites. The Raindrop Cake is just going to have to be a (no) go for me. Now I’m dreaming of some classic inari rolls.