When I walked into Café de Waraku, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. It’s a Japanese spaghetti and cheesecake restaurant, and now having had a few experiences with Hong Kong-style pasta, I know it’s best just to have an open mind. If you’re a die-hard I-believe-pasta-should-only-be-one-way type of person, then perhaps this isn’t the right spot for you. But if you’re ok with a menu that mixes spaghetti noodles with teriyaki sauce and seaweed, then head on in.
The café isn’t huge, but has plenty of seating for groups, and is adorned with images of the cookies and cheesecake they specialize in. Their Christmas decorations were also still up, even a little festive bell on the door. Seeing as we’re almost into March, must just really love the holidays.
Combined, the menus were pretty huge, with one for their savoury food (pasta and omurice) and the other for dessert.
The pages of pasta range from their “Original Flavours” such as eel & egg and garlic & little-neck clam to pastas with pesto sauce, garlic, teriyaki sauce, creamy sauce, creamy pesto sauce, tomato sauce, creamy tomato sauce, and meat sauce, as well as ‘make your own.’
Since I haven’t been feeling all that hot, I went with what my body asked for – something simple, and comforting. I asked for the spaghetti with pesto, pine nuts, and parmesan ($7.99), then asked for them to add meatballs to it ($2). I also asked for a garden salad ($2.49) to start because, well, it can only help me.
The salad was just greens drizzled with some Italian dressing. Not bad, and I didn’t expect much more for the price.
The plate of pasta was quite large, and came with a shaker of parmesan cheese, the Kraft version; I didn’t really expect freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The dish had a very generous amount of toasted pine nuts, which in addition to being one of my favourite things, are quite expensive.
Pine nuts aren’t actually nuts, they’re seeds, but they do come from pine trees. For the most part they’re harvested by hand, which accounts for the price. Italians love them, and put them in pesto, pasta, cookies, cakes, tarts, and more. That’s not only because they’re buttery and rich-tasting, but because they’re full of good stuff like vitamins A, D, and C, iron, protein, magnesium, and heart-friendly fat. My goodness do I ever love pine nuts, and I was impressed with Café de Waraku’s liberal toss of them over my pasta.
The spaghetti itself was al dente, but I agreed with a number of the comments on urbanspoon that it tasted bland. I solved that problem with a generous shake of extra parmesan, but they’d be better off just adding more salt to the cooking water in the first place. The meatballs tasted good, though they appeared steamed rather than pan-fried, which is definitely more Asian than European. All in all, though this was a dish I could have easily whipped up at home, it was still a simple, comforting, and filling meal.
For dessert, Café de Waraku offers a huge variety of cheesecakes, most of which are on display in a case near the back. I asked my server to point out their most popular, and apparently #1 is durian. Gaaah.
I’m sure they do a wonderful job of it and people do genuinely love the stuff, but my bod was not in the mood to venture into durian territory. Instead, I asked for the next two most popular choices, which are cookies & cream and tofu. I couldn’t decide between the two, so I asked for a slice of each, and took the leftovers home.
The cookies and cream ($7) was a layered mix of New York-style chocolate cheesecake, cookie bits, crust, ganache, and other chocolately-cookieness. If you like chocolate, you’ll like this; it was dense, rich, and satisfying, and I had to remind myself not to consume the whole thing.
The tofu cheesecake ($6.50) was light in every way – colour, texture, and flavour. It was barely sweet and incredibly light – just the dessert for someone who’s ‘not really a dessert person.’ Being THE dessert person, I of course preferred the cookies and cream, but Café de Waraku clearly has an option for everyone.
They put my leftovers into an adorable little cake box, and I got to enjoy them later. I don’t know if I’d necessarily go back to Café de Waraku for the pasta, but I would for dessert, and you should too if you’re a cheesecake-lover.
Now, in tribute to pine nuts, here’s a recipe that combines sweet and savoury in one cookie:
Rosemary and Pine Nut Sables from SeriousEats.com
16 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (1 cup)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and salt. Add flour and beat just until combined. Add rosemary and pine nuts and stir until evenly distributed. Roll dough into a 1 1/2-inch wide log, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for two hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to slice log into 1/3-inch thick pieces. Bake cookies until golden, turning sheet once during baking, about 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available