Saturday, May 23, 2015

What You'll Find In The Best Japanese Bakery in Singapore


With many Japanese bakeries hitting Singapore lately, Pullman Bakery from Hokkaido, baking daily since 2010, continues to stay strong, reigning in many customers daily with their tantalising and exquisite freshly-baked Japanese breads. Recently, I had an opportunity to work in the city and after two short weeks, the bakery at the tranquil Millenia Walk shopping centre has cemented its place as my favourite. Among the 10 or so breads which I have tried during the past two weeks, my favourites are both their Butter and Almond Croissants, both distinctively different yet incredibly good, the fried Sweet Potato Donut which comes with an extremely generous filling and the Nuts & Kaya Bun, which is a perfect complement of almonds and walnuts, Japanese-inspired kaya and soft, heavenly bread with a crispy exterior.

Pullman's wide selection of sweet pastries on offer
Master chef Kazuomi Tachihara
Renowed for its Hokkaido curry buns, the bakery has operated in Singapore since 2010 and is the first and only overseas branch outside Hokkaido, where it has 4 stores in Sapporo. On its website, the bakery claims that it uses nothing but the freshest ingredients, with its flour, yeast and a variety of ingredients such as potatoes and onions locally-produced in Hokkaido. It was founded by renowed baker Kazuomi Tachihara, a consecutive two-time winner of Japan's Bun Championship from popular Tokyo television programme "TV Champion", together with his wife, Sumiko. Since its inaugural participation in the Hokkaido Fair at Isetan Shinjuku, the bakery has earned a strong reputation and has been making waves around the world, with invitations to Hokkaido Fairs in America, Hong Kong, Thailand and of course, Singapore.

Pullman's Butter Croissant is the star of the bakery

The Butter and Almond Croissants are the highlights of the bakery. Don't be fooled by the normal appearance of the Butter Croissant. Be prepared to be taken away by its crispiness, which is supplemented by its buttery-smooth and chewy interior once you sink your teeth into its many outer layers. The fragrant butter titillates your taste buds while the flaky crust packs an extra crunch. Get the croissant early in the morning when it is freshly-baked and piping hot from the oven and you will find yourself in high spirits for the rest of the day. Best of all, it only costs $1.60. Definitely a steal for such a well-crafted quality breakfast croissant.


What to try next? Of course, the Almond Croissant! Not croissant again? Well, after putting this into your mouth, you will want to eat croissants everyday. The Croissants aux Amandes have a slightly different crispy-soft texture on the outside compared to their butter cousins. The outer layer is made of slightly-burnt but soft cake-like pastry, together with the crispy, flaky layers of a butter croissant while the inside may either be soft and buttered or filled. One can see why it is more difficult to master baking an almond croissant. However, not only does the soft cake-like layer of Pullman's almond croissants mesh with its crunchy layers perfectly well, Pullman even turns it up a notch by hiding a mildy-sweet real strawberry filling which oozes out from the middle when you bite into it. This sublime combination of sweetness, crispiness and fruitiness is a sensation that you'll never forget! The almond croissants cost $2.10 each and are only available at certain hours so it's best to come in the afternoon or early evening if you want to try these delicious gems.

The Almond Croissant is soft and crispy on the outside
Real strawberry filling oozes from the chewy interior

They are very liberal with the filling

Speaking of pastries with fillings, another unique crowd-pleaser is sure to be the Sweet Potato Donut. Forget about calories! The sweet potato donut may be a donut but it does not have your typical, diabetes-inducing sugary inner filling. Instead, the donut contains an overly generous helping of healthy, smooth-flowing pounded sweet potato, which balances out the greasiness of the donut and when you bite into it. This is definitely a must-try for sweet potato lovers, donut aficionados and everyone alike! Which donut have you ever tried that contains such a bountiful filling inside it? For me, none that I can remember. The corn flakes dusted on the outside also provides a welcome added crunch to it. My only gripe is that the donut may be a tad oily, given that it is deep-fried. Nevertheless, the sweet potato donut with its abundant filling is sure to please. It costs $1.60 and is a perfect low-calorie alternative to potato chips.

NUTS & KAYA BUN (S$1.90)

Who would have thought that a Japanese bakery would make their own kaya bun? Neither did I and I was pleasantly surprised by Pullman's Nuts & Kaya Bun. Filled with authentic kaya and chopped walnuts, and topped off with almond slices on a crispy-soft outside (the same as the almond croissant), the bun is a stand-out at $1.90. For those who have never tried it before, kaya is a common food spread in Southeast Asia, made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. The kaya, though not as unstinting as the sweet potato filling, is ample and goes well with the chopped walnuts and savoury crust of the bun. The bun has a nice, chewy texture too, something I like about all Pullman breads. Their unparalleled and irresistible chewiness might be attributed to their homemade yeast which makes all their breads so refined. The Nuts & Kaya Bun may be simple but it offers a lot and makes a good breakfast bun or lunchtime snack, especially if you love kaya and Japanese breads.

Japanese kaya and chopped walnuts in an irrestibly chewy bun
That crispy-soft crust is delectable

Sweet, soft and crispy melon pan

There are two melon pans (melon bread) on the menu at Pullman's. One is the original, plain melon pan, the other is one topped off with chocolate chip for an additional 20 cents. Go for the latter. Melon pan is another simple pastry to make but difficult to master, just like the croissant. A sweet bun that is ubiquitous in Japan, it is a sweet bun resembling a melon, covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. Contrary to its name, it is not melon-flavoured and does not contain any melon filling (although Sun Moulin's does and it is pretty delectable too). Therefore, its defining quality lies in its bread. The melon pan at Pullman is the most impeccable among the few I have tasted and it is a clear winner. The melon pan is fragrant, soft and fresh on the inside and the cake-like cookie dough is perfectly sweet and crispy on the outside. Not to mention that the chocolate chips melt in your mouth to accentuate the sweetness of the dough, Pullman's Chocolate Chip Melon Pan is a masterpiece.

Literally a "bacon and egg" bread

Bacon and egg buns can be found in almost every bakery in Singapore, after the fad was started by some bakery a couple of years back. The creation was a literal translation of the traditional American breakfast onto bread, the staple of most Singaporeans' breakfast. However, only some truly stand out from the rest as the quality of ingredients used and the baking process would determine the standard of the bread. Pullman's Bacon Egg Bread is simply mouth-watering. As you sink your teeth into their signature chewy bun, you can taste the aromatic fat of the well-sizzled bacon strips drizzling down your throat. That, paired with the soft protein-packed egg white of the sunny side-up and the flavourful crimson egg yolk which spills over the soft bread when burst, provides you with an energising and appetising breakfast to kickstart your day. Slightly highly-priced at $2.20, it is a unique creation, a literal "bacon and egg bun" and worth every single cent.

Intensely fragrant raisin cream cheese (right)

You see it everywhere, from the neighbourhood bakeries to BreadTalk. You're probably tired of it. You may think that you have already tried the best but you haven't. Another must-try on the list is Pullman's Raisin Cream Cheese Bun. Pullman's version of another ubiquitous pastry in Singapore, after the rage started by Barcook Bakery that has seen violent squabbles over it, is pleasantly different. Pullman's Raisin Cream Cheese is soft and chewy, as one would expect of their made-with-homemade-yeast bun. However, the cream cheese filling is more solid than the usual, fluid version found in most bakeries. It tends to be more tangible, with a hint of milk in it, which really excites my palate as I love all things milk. It is not a bad thing though as the cheese is nonetheless intensely fragrant and the semi-liquid nature of it enables it to linger in your mouth longer and saturate it with its flavour. Add this to your list of top soft raisin cream cheese buns at $1.70.


Hokkaido Red Bean and Chocolate Breads

Bursting with the full flavour of milk
Dessert breads aside, Pullman also has a few delectable loaves of bread on offer, from the luscious Hokkaido Milk Breads to the rich Natural Yeast Raisin Walnut Loaf. The toothsome milk breads are sold in halves or as a whole and they make a good, satisfying substitute for lunch. There is the Hokkaido Milk Bread ($1.90/half), which is savoury bread made from pure Hokkaido flour, their homemade yeast, enriched with wholesome Hokkaido milk and dusted lightly with sugar. The Hokkaido Red Bean Bread ($1.90/half) is a variation with sweet red beans and the Hokkaido Chocolate Bread ($2.20/half) is one baked with chocolate powder and chocolate chips. They have a palatable cake-like texture on the outside and are exceptionally chewy and flavourful on the inside, bursting with the full flavour of milk. I would recommend the Hokkaido Red Bean Bread as the saccharine red beans go hand in hand with the robust milky flavour of the bread. That flavour is somewhat eclipsed by the overpowering chocolate in the Hokkaido Chocolate Bread, which is more suited for chocolate devotees while the Hokkaido Milk Bread stands well on its own.

Pullman's delightful mini creations

Lastly, the mini croissants at Pullman are also worth a try. Costing only 40 cents each, they are affordably-priced in this harsh economic climate and make a good quick bite or snack. The Mini Croissant is lightly-coated with a slightly-sugary syrup and it offers the same crunch and punch of the whole Pullman Croissant at a lower price. The pairing of the sweetness of the coating and the saltiness of the buttered croissant is a match made in heaven. The Goma Mini Croissant is similarly commendable too, with the flavour of the roasted sesame seeds giving it a charming, warm flavour reminiscent of a laidback summer afternoon. I also tried the Mini Sweet Potato Pie but they were nowhere as crispy as the mini croissants and did not offer the same pleasure as the Sweet Potato Donut.


With a wide-ranging and diverse selection of bread and pastries for you to choose from, you are always spoilt for choice at Pullman. There are still so many of their bread and pastries which I have yet to try such as the Pear Danish, Milk France, Sausage Baguette, Kougin Aman, Bacon Potato French, Milk Hearth and Raisin Walnut Milk Stick. They even have a Wholemeal Sausage Bun if you wish to have a guiltless indulgence. There are even freshly-baked cookies and madelines which I have yet to try, on sale daily. All their pastries are also affordably-priced, with the most expensive costing only slightly more than $2- another reason why I like Pullman.

Most other Japanese bakeries in Singapore have their products priced upwards of $2 but their quality often does not come close to Pullman's., with the exception of the newly-opened Asanoya, which is able compete with Pullman for taste. However, that is another story for another day. In fact, I envy all the fortunate people who work near Millenia Walk as they get to eat Pullman's pastries for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner everyday. Here are some of my thoughts on the other goodies which I had tried during the past two weeks.

Takoyaki bun (credits: JarWee Photography)

Costing slightly more than the rest at $2.00, the Takoyaki Bun is another unorthodox creation by Pullman Bakery. Made of octopus balls sandwiched in the middle of their tempting, chewy bun, it feels like eating takoyaki together with bread, and the result is well. It might be more economically-favourable to get one of Pullman's chewy white bread loaves and pair it together with Gindaco's piping hot Takoyaki though. You might possibly get the same taste. However, if you are craving for octopus balls, this bun will not disappoint.

It's not the monster it was anthropomorphised to be

Chikuwa is a Japanese tubular "fishcake" made from fish surumi (ground white fish meat) and other additives such as sugar, salt, starch, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and egg white. Cheap and being a relatively low-fat protein source, it is popular as a snack and commonly consumed as oden, a warm Japanese dish eaten in the winter. An anthropomorphised
chikuwa chikuwabu (I confused the two) was most recently parodied as a misanthropic villain in the last season's anime, Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!, which I dropped after four episodes. Pullman's special creation is one of its all-time favourites in Japan and the harmonious marriage of the chikuwa, tuna and signature chewy bread is a testament to that. You should also try Pullman's Chikuwa Bun at least once because it is a specialty of Pullman in Hokkaido. At $1.90, it does not burn a big hole in your wallet too.


The Nama Choco Pan is a white bun with a delicate and soft milk-enriched exterior, somewhat resembling the much-loved Milk Pan which you can find at Provence Bakery. It contains a gooey custard-like nama chocolate filling, which is a smooth, velvety Japanese chocolate made from rich milk chocolate and fresh cream. My experience with the Nama Choco Pan was average. It was good enough to eat on its own but the chocolate filling was lacking. It did not ooze out like the filling in the Sweet Potato Donut or Milk Pan when I sunk my teeth into it. Worth a try if you love chocolate and fine, soft buns.


I bought the Apple Bread with high expectations, having read some positive reviews about it online. It was slightly below my expectations, let down once again by the meagre filling. It contained real apple slices and had a vibrant, fruity feeling that left me wanting more. I could not complain much as it is one of the more lower-priced bread at $1.40 although I would not mind paying more for a more generous filling which I enjoyed.

Red Bean Donut (Bottom): Too sweet and too much icing

My, my, this was the most disappointing of the bunch. After tasting the splendid Sweet Potato Donut and seeing how the Tsubuan Donut (chunky red bean paste) was one of their best-sellers in Japan, I had sky-high expectations for the Red Bean Donut. I even had a conversation with another customer who recommended it to me when I bought the Sweet Potato Donut. However, it did not go down too well for me. The overly-sweet icing sugar, coupled with the already-sweet azuki (grounded red bean paste) filling and the oleaginous fried donut dough was a sure-fire way to get diabetes quickly. I had second thoughts after eating it.

Looks a little something like this, but to the right

After trying the Nuts & Kaya Bun, how could one not try another of their delightful kaya creations? The Kaya Milk Stick is a commendable effort, consisting of a milk-enriched soft, long white stick-shaped bread, with Pullman's marvellous kaya in the middle. Sure to please kaya and milk fans alike but at $1.60, it would be more worth your money to go for the Nuts & Kaya Bun at an additional 30 cents.

ANPAN ($1.30)

Not as much filling
The Anpan (red bean bun) was surprisingly better for me. If you are on a diet and do not wish to consume too many high-calorie dessert bread, Pullman's Anpan is the way to go. Containing less azuki filling than your average anpan, it is both value-for-money and value-for-calorie to grab for breakfast. However, if you are one who is not easily satiated, go for other options.


I made the mistake of buying this bread the first time when I was intending to buy the Sweet Potato Donut (which happened to be sold out at the time). Well, maybe it wasn't really a mistake. The bun is satisfactory and reasonably-priced. However, it does not offer quite the same serving of the delicious sweet potato filling which I have come to love, as the Sweet Potato Donut. Between the two, I would go for the latter at the same cost. If you are not in the mood for a piece of fried donut, if you are on a diet, or if you are just ill, the Sweet Potato Bread offers the same, amazingly delicious filling as the donut. Just not as much going for it at the same price.


A typical buy from Pullman Bakery
With every bun handmade with care and only the finest ingredients used, it is difficult not to love Pullman's bread when you bite into them. In addition, they have such a colourful and varied assortment of breads that you can try a few different ones everyday (all you lucky people working near Millenia Walk!). Not to mention that their buns are very reasonably-priced for Japanese breads, and breads of such fine quality too. Among all the authentic Japanese bakeries in Singapore which I have sampled so far, including Donq, Johan Paris, Yamazaki and Asanoya, I can safely say that Pullman Bakery is the best of the lot. Until I return to work in the vicinity of Millenia Walk, get to sample more of their palatable creations and get to try their famous Hokkaido Curry Bun, which I last tried around the time they first opened, wait for Part 2 of the Pullman Bakery Showcase. Until I get to work in the vicinity of Asanoya and get to sample a different creation of theirs everyday...