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Sweet Thyme Bakery, Lexington Center, not to be missed!

Well, I know you guys hate my photo reviews, but I discovered Sweet Thyme Bakery right next to Depot Square, on Mass Ave in Lexington Center. (Next door to the popular Via Lago.) I'm gunna give you the scoop, no doubt, in words too this time however.

If you like Cafe Japonaise, and have an idea of how serious and to what heights Japan takes parisian style baked goods in Japan, this is not to be missed! I walked in not expecting much, maybe a Chinatown style coffeeshop. Soon as we saw the display case, I was blown away. Roulades, exotic flavored cheesecakes, mini cream puffs, tarts, butter cookies, all pretty much to Japanese standards. Japanese (err English) style breads too. That's not even half of it. The section is not quite as large as CJ, (no savory items, not her thing) but it's pretty impressive for 6 months in.

The owner started talking to us and I was pretty sure she was Taiwanese. I was right. There is just no way any other Chinese could get to this level. She did in fact confirm that many of her clientele is Japanese. She's super charming and super talented, she just has some gift. It's her first place and basically she was a home baker before and her husband an office worker. They are Cindy and Chris, and I urge you to support them, as first-time businesses are often dicey. (Frankly they are charging half of what they should, so buy it up!) They don't speak fluent english (there was a funny moment when we asked for "wi-fi" or "internet", we gave up trying to ask, she simply didn't understand either word! But man she bakes fierce, and she's cute! Move over Joanne Chang!

The cafe is very serene and easily the best place to chill out in Lexington. In contrast, CJ in Brookline is such a dump, as a Japanese I'm totally embarrassed how low-rent Hiroko keeps that place. (However, many years ago, Hiroko had my favorite sushi place in Boston, on Beacon St, technically Brookline. The sidewalk belongs to Boston however.)

So in my mind, Sweet Thyme is bit more Japanese than the Japanese competition around here, and that is saying a lot. The reality is that Cindy's products are representative of Taiwan's diversity in cuisine, and then it's her own interests on top of that. Very eclectic indeed.

The iced jasmine tea had a pretty explosive bouquet and just the right amount of sweetness. She gave us a free sample. She also laid a free pastry on my friend, it's not even on the menu and I can't remember it.

Also, this would be my first choice in Boston-area for a birthday cake. The quality is undoubtably there and the prices, OMG. It's just underpriced for now, I think their inexperience shows in this regard. Your gain!

Ya gotta go. I don't even like sweets, but, ya gotta go.

Time to get my photo on bitches!

Cafe Japonaise
1032 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

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  1. I know so little about Japanese bakeries that any information is helpful. Also, you posted some great pix, and we all know how many words those are worth. Thanks, and please keep posting!


    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Well, yeah, pictures are great, if they have any sort of description attached and even the most basic "I liked this" or not, would make them helpful. Right now, it's just some nice pics of some sort of... cheese? One's a bread I think? See what I mean? I have no idea what that stuff is or if he liked it. It certainly looks exquisitely prepared, but so does Finale.

    2. I myself love a good bakery, and will probably check this place out myself.

      That said, referring to all the other chowhounds as "bitches" certainly does not win many hearts and minds...

      3 Replies
      1. re: StriperGuy

        I think Tatsu was tongue in cheek there, a@*wipe!!!
        Nice pics, Tatsu, how'd you get that white background? Was that the way they looked in the display, or did you set them up?

        1. re: justbeingpolite

          I usually like to shoot point and shoot style in the restaurant, but this was at home on a countertop. That's why I shot with and without the wrappers.

        2. re: StriperGuy

          Sry man, I thought it was common enough to be taken as a good-natured joke.

          "I'm coming to the party bitches!", etc.

        3. How did everything taste? And what did you get? I see milk bread in the photos, but wasn't sure if the other things were soft cake or hard cookies.

          3 Replies
          1. re: taterjane

            The green, pink and speckled white slabs are butter cookies. Specifically, green tea with pumpkin seeds, which were my favorite, the crunch of the seeds were a perfect foil. The pink is a rose walnut, very good, perhaps not as delish as it looks, but still a very good cookie. Finally, the black sesame, which is less influential on the flavor than you might think, subtle.

            Milk bread is very much a Japanese specialty. It tastes somewhere in between challah and brioche. (It doesn't have eggs and not as much butter as brioche.) I like it because you can simply toast it and eat it, adding butter would be overkill. (But then people butter their croissants, so whatevs.) At cafe japanoise, they have 2 versions, one with milk, and a more yellow one with heavy cream.

            A lot of posts here were deleted, but I just wanted to say thanks to all for helping me figure out how to combine text and photos. I'm starting a Japanese food blog soon, and I appreciate your feedback. For those who were offended by my tone, I'm sorry, I am very casual indeed.

              1. re: tatsu

                Thanks for the additional info - I've really been enjoying the different kinds of cookies at Yi Soon and at 101 Bakery in Chinatown, so will add these to my to-try list.

                I'm sorry you've felt as though folks didn't appreciate your photos. To be honest, I love seeing photos in posts here, but this isn't Flikr, and in this particular context a picture is NOT worth a thousand words! It's definitely necessary to say something about what the food is and how it tastes.

                As to your tone, casual is one thing and sweary is another. The CH mods will defend your right to use that kind of language, but why insult half of your audience?

            1. This is my fav go-to in Lex center whenever I need to satisfy my sweet tooth - about 3x per week. The offerings are beautifully presented and/or packaged. If you only prefer Euro style pastries, this is not the place to go. The owners/bakers are very focused on quality and freshness of the items. Periodically, they offer a new Asian twist on an American or European dessert (e.g. the apple pie filled sticky rice flour muffin). Or a mango or mocha mousse that is a cross b/w jello and rich mousse but without the cloying sweetness of jello.

              I hope it doesn't become too popular or I won't be able to sit next time I'm in the shop.

              1. I tried the blueberry cheesecake. The flavoring (and color) is swirled in artfully, and it had a chocolate graham base/crust, which really added to it. It also had a very small amount of tiny bits of walnut, not sure if it was in the base or the cheesecake because I, um, ate it too fast.

                1. Coincidentally a friend who is Japanese just gave me a loaf of raisin milk toast bread from Sweet Thyme which was delish for breakfast. I might give Yi Soons version the slightest edge. Need to hit this place.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Sweet Thyme doesn't quite have the depth and variety of Yi Soon or C.J., yet. But for 4 months in, from the hands of a self-professed home baker, this is very auspicious and hard to be believed. Also the prices are really low. At any rate, a very welcome addition and pleasant surprise. Looking forward to your findings.

                  2. We love the green tea and pumpkin seed cookies! The little chocolate mousse cups are delish, and the tea selection is lovely.

                    Lexington Center is definitely improving. Sweet Thyme, Cake, and now the new bike and coffee shop have really expanded the sweets options. Now if only they would stay open later, we might have a dessert option....

                    1. Have you been to the late (and very much missed) Cafe Cakes? If you have, how does Sweet Thyme stack up? It seems very much in the same vein. My husband and I miss Cafe Cakes very much and would love to know of a good substitute and by all indications, this bakery may be IT! Now if only Sweet Thyme has Milk Tea Pudding.........

                      7 Replies
                        1. re: Boiled Egg

                          You will find similarities yes, but Sweet Thyme is actually a bit more original and probably a better overall. I remember Cafe Cakes had lunches too, but they were not memorable or anything. I think you and your SO will love it.

                          What happenned to CC? Do you know if the bakers are doing something else? It think the location killed them, (no parking) but maybe you know better.

                          1. re: tatsu

                            Thanks for the recommendation. We are excited to try. Although I do miss the CC sandwiches, if you know anyplace that makes something like that, please share.

                            1. re: makonna

                              You could try the croquette sandwich at Cafe Japonaise in Brookline or Porter Sq. A little Japanese potato croquette, some tonkatsu sauce, bit of lettuce on a soft roll. It's inexpensive but small, 2 or 3 bites. They also do the sort of dainty English high tea sandwiches with the crusts trimmed that are common with Japanese. Egg salad and ham is typical.

                              Another savory treat is a sort Japanese equivalent of a brown bag stuffer, the lovely victual, Onigiri. (Rice ball in a triangle shape with various filling like umeboshi or shaved bonito flakes, you wrap yourself in nori seaweed.)

                              Kotobukiya, (which forked into Ebisuya in Medford) when it existed, also sold Onigiri next to Cafe Japonaise. I can't remember for the life of me which one was better, but one was clearly better. I think it was Cafe Japonaise, because I would check there first and go to Kotobukiya next if they were sold out of them.

                              Cafe Japonaise
                              1032 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                            2. re: tatsu

                              I liked Cafe Cakes, but there really was just not enough breadth and depth there. Can't tell you how many times I walked in, only to see VERY limited selection. Both when they were in Belmont, and Watertown. Finally they just faded away.

                              1. re: tatsu

                                Thanks for the comparison! My DH and I would definitely head to Sweet Thyme for a tryout.

                                As for CC, Noriko told me that it was exhausting to run the place. It is too bad that the location did not attract more of the crowd taking the bus at the depot in the morning. There was parking behind CC, but it wasn't obvious. The things that I miss most are the cakes I would order from her and the Milk Tea Pudding. I am certainly hopeful that Sweet Thyme will fill the void.

                                1. re: Boiled Egg

                                  I haven't tried them, but the cakes look totally dazzling and the prices are crazy low. She's got 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 inches and quarter, half and full sheets.

                                  the 6 starts at $18.50, the 10 is $35. even a two layer full sheet is just 110 bucks.

                            3. I have become addicted to the mochi (sticky rice flour) muffins. So far there are two varieties: azuki bean and apple. If you are "into" texture, as well as flavor, you must try these. The mochi is a little crunchy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, with a slightly buttery flavor. The fillings appear to be home made, and from my experience, sometimes the azuki filling is a bit dry. The apple has been terrific--not too sweet, slight crunch to the apples. I'm hoping they'll try to some other fillings, as well.
                              If you like this style of pastries and breads, and live in the Lexington area, H-Mart in Burlington also has a bakery with interesting choices and diverse flavors. It's called Tous les Jours. It lacks to refinement of Sweet Thyme, but has a wider variety of offerings, many very interesting and tasty.

                              3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lgalen

                                Those mochi muffins are ahsum. They are slowly rolling out new items, it's nice. I like the iced teas there. I really like the couple who owns Sweet Thyme, they are really very sweet.

                              2. Tried some things at Sweet Thyme today. The rice-flour muffins (I sampled apple and adzuki bean) are very intriguing, very fresh-fragrant, and very hard to eat. As observed by others the stickiness of the rice dough makes the paper wrapper impossible to peel off. It's a pity because the light, crisp crust is very good. I regret that most of it will stay stuck to its wrapper. I also tried one flavor (rose pistachio) of the thin crisp cookies mentioned on this thread. It was quite good. The flavoring was delicate, not forceful. I'll be back for other versions of these. There were additional intriguing items (carrot bread for one) that I'd like to try.

                                1. I've been back to Sweet Thyme three times. (I was doing time in Lexington last week.) It's really a very good place, and well worth a visit. I've worked my way through all their cookies, thin and thick (but have not tried their macaroons). My favorites are the rounded cranberry cookies, their thin rose cookies (mentioned above, but the nuts in them are walnut not pistachio) and the thin almond. The sesame ones had less flavor than I was hoping for, and the green tea are very mild. Green tea is tricky flavor, destroyed easily by heat. The texture of all these cookies is excellent, but the crisp ones lose a bit of crispness after they have sat in their wrappers for a while. The cookies are best if you get them off the baking trays *just* after they are packaged.

                                  I've also had their carrot bread and sesame. They're both excellent. The carrot bread is brioche-like with flecks of carrot and a nice carrot aftertaste. The sesame is like a sesame flavored milk bread and it toasts a beautiful, uniform brown. Someone I was with has had one of their cheesecake bars and wolfed it down before I could get a taste.

                                  The best things I've had there, though, have been their moon cakes. Fresh, delicate and beautifully flavored, the almond is particularly good. The green tea / red bean isn't quite as outstanding. The cakes are normally by special order (till Sep 8) but they have loose ones here and there.