Smile Dessert is a dessert restaurant chain from China which has recently arrived in Auckland. The Somerville branch opened in December 2015, and we were informed by the manager that the Dominion Road branch is expected to open soon.
There has been a flurry of Asian dessert restaurants opening in Auckland in the last year, from global chains to homegrown cafes. There is Meet Fresh (Taiwanese), Mellow (local), Snowman Café (Korean), Fresh (Korean), Fukurou Patisserie (Malaysian). It’s wonderful to see Asian flavours creating a foothold in what must be the last bastion of Western cuisine, desserts. Asian flavours typically mean a lot of green tea and red bean flavours, but Smile Dessert the most recent newcomer to these shores is showcasing mango and the most Asian of flavours…durian.
Admittedly I’m not a durian fanatic, but it is a taste of home. We eat durian fresh right out of its shell in Malaysia, sometimes as an ice-cream and even in durian puffs. But at Smile Desserts, you can get durian in all manner of concoctions, ‘soupy’ desserts, pancakes, ice-cream, mille crêpe cake and in combination with other tropical fruits. There was even a durian shaped cake.
The dish I was most excited to try was the durian pizza. Say what? Yes that’s correct, durian and cheese. This was surprisingly tasty. Both pungent ingredients played off well against each other, and cooked durian is more mellow. While we were there, the pizzas came with a promotional $1 signature fruit tea. The tea is nicely presented in a carafe with a myriad of fruit pieces.
The durian crêpe cake looked rather sad, and there was just way too much cream. The crêpe texture was too soft, the bright green colour was odd, and the durian flavour was muted. This combination also comes as a individual durian pancake bundles.
I enjoyed the durian puffs which are baked cream puffs with a creamy durian centre. The grapefruit and durian dessert consisted of whole tinned rambutans and grapefruit cells in a durian base.
The best seller is the mango sago with pomelo. The mango flavour wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, and there was very little pomelo (which was likely substituted with grapefruit). The desserts, especially the fruit-based ones look little like their glossy representation in the menus. However less stylised and vibrant, the flavours are nice.
There is a wide range of desserts and drinks on the menu, and some are still in development. Even though Smile Dessert advertises their molecular desserts, I don’t recall there was any on offer. The main draw card here are the Asian flavours, and the variety of light desserts. There are also traditional warm desserts such as black sesame seed and walnut paste/soup, but these tend to be more popular in winter.
Overall, we like our desserts less sweet and more delicate than Western offerings. Desserts are considered palate cleansers rather than a course in themselves.
The concept for Smile Dessert is commendable, even if the execution can be lacking. Against dessert restaurants run by professionally trained chefs or those with a small menu done well, Smile Dessert’s results can seem amateur in their attempt to cover such a wide range.
Given time, I’m hopeful that Smile Dessert will find their feet. Because we definitely need more durian and mango desserts in Auckland.
90B Whitford Road, Somerville
Ph: 021 966 608
Mon – Wed 11am – 11pm
Thu – Sun 11am – 12 midnight