Now that summer is unofficially here, it’s about time you walked down East Broadway to check out The Little One, where some of the most interesting desserts on the Lower East Side are being prepared (and devoured).
Pastry chefs Eddie Zheng and Olivia Leung are Chinatown kids with some serious culinary credentials. They opened The Little One in December after stints at Wd~50, The Elm, Cafe Clover, La Sirena (him) and Dominique Ansel Bakery (her). The space at 150 East Broadway has just five tables. The stripped down, minimal spot is located right across the street from the newly expanded Malaysian cafe, Kopitiam, which will be reopening soon.
Zheng and Leung are bringing their fine dining expertise and a dedication to sourcing high quality ingredients to The Little One. The inspiration for the cafe came during a trip to Japan, where they experienced traditional desserts with ingredients that are largely unknown in America. As Zheng told AM New York earlier this year, “We brought back some Japanese influences — the base of Japanese desserts — and put in our own culinary experiences.”
The menu is divided into three categories. On the left-hand side, you’ll find Dorayaki, a fluffy pancake traditionally stuffed with a red bean paste. At The Little One the fillings have been switched up. During our visit in late April, there was a pineapple filling, Zheng and Leung’s take on classic Taiwanese pineapple cakes. There were also versions with chocolate-coconut with red bean/matcha cream.
In the center column, you’ll find a selection of ice cream sandwiches made with monaka (a crispy rice flour shell). Flavors include chrysanthemum, corn with toasted coconut and lime zest, white sesame, buckwheat with chocolate fudge and cashew. That last one — featuring extra virgin olive oil and Maldon sea salt — is part of a collaboration with Jesus Perea, the acclaimed former pastry chef at Cosme.
On the right-hand column, The Little One offers kakigori, a kind-of Japanese shaved ice. Zheng referred to kakigori as a “no fuss dessert,” because it’s really meant to emphasize seasonal ingredients (strawberry, matcha, Hōjicha (Japanese green tea). There’s a purple horchata version, also part of the collaboration with Chef Perea.
Zheng knows the neighborhood well. Both of his parents have businesses just up the block on East Broadway. He lives on Division Street. He’s well aware of the changes happening throughout Chinatown, East Broadway included.
The goal at The Little One, he said, is to create desserts rooted in tradition, that allow the chefs to elevate unusual and very high quality ingredients. Even though the initial concept has its foundation in Japan, they’re planning to expand the menu beyond traditional Asian flavors. (The kitchen now has an oven, which will open up a lot of possibilities).
The Little One is open during the week from 1-8 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, it’s open noon-9 p.m. If you want to experience the collaboration with Jesus Perea, you only have a couple of days (it wraps up at the end of this month).