A taste of Asian delicacies at Duke Bakery
Duke Bakery is a Taiwanese fusion bakery known for its milky buns and use of organic recipes. Combining the sophistication of an upscale European shop with the signature tastes of Asian baking, this cafe boasts a variety of different pastries that can be enjoyed by all.
Suitably positioned in the middle of Diamond Plaza, a favored shopping and dining center in Rowland Heights, Duke Bakery undeniably makes a grand first impression. Although small in size compared to the larger dim-sum restaurant adjacent, Duke advertises a tasteful, minimalist sign that is inviting and alluring.
The most prominent feature of the bakery is its spaciousness. It has an appealing exterior, but is still evidently small from the outside. However, the high ceiling and simple decor inside creates a more spacious atmosphere. The overall effect was incredibly relaxing and the monochrome color scheme added a sense of elegance as well.
Another element of the bakery that I noticed drew a lot of inspiration from Taiwanese culture are the signs and placards lining the walls. They are written in both Mandarin and English, and a few included a bit of history about the Asian origins of the ingredients. I found it to be an interesting addition, even if it wasn’t very substantial.
The service is very impressive as well. When I first entered the building, the employees were busying themselves trying to rearrange and restock the breads and pastries. However, they quickly assisted me when I asked about Duke’s specialties and best-sellers. They were very knowledgeable about their business and were extremely patient with me— being a first-time customer.
As with most Taiwanese bakeries, Duke follows the similar concept of a buffet-style serving station where customers are intended to take a basket and choose which items to buy from. However, it’s unique in that it had miniature shopping carts lined with butcher paper in place of trays. It was a bit confusing at first, but after some help from the employees, the setup proved to be very intuitive. Inside each shopping cart-basket hybrid, there was a pair of tongs that were to be used for selecting the breads. From their relatively small but distinct selection, I ultimately decided on the French Garlic Soft Bread, Strawberry Milk Bread and bestselling Hokkaido Azuki & Milk Toast.
Averaging $4 a piece, the pastries and breads aren’t exactly a bargain, but I decided that for its use of organic ingredients, Duke’s products shouldn’t be considered overpriced either. The first one I tried, the French Garlic Soft Bread was, like its namesake, especially soft and had the consistency similar to that of a sponge. Upon taking my first bite, I was instantly impressed. The garlic tastes were not overpowering but complemented the slightly sweet flavors of the milk-infused dough. However, the garlic was unevenly spread through some parts of the bread, which left it to taste a bit bland, but was nonetheless thoughtfully made.
The Strawberry Milk Bread was made with grape extract, butter cream and a light but velvety strawberry filling. Before I took my first bite, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as it looked savory but was described to be fruity and sugary. It had a distinct aftertaste of grape and strawberry flavoring that was very peculiar, but I enjoyed the incorporation of different ingredients that wouldn’t normally be used in a dough recipe.
Although the first two that I tried were excellent, I was most anticipating the Hokkaido Azuki & Milk Toast, which didn’t disappoint. It was beautifully made, topped off with a sugary crumble and marbled red bean cross section. I don’t usually enjoy the taste of red bean, but was impressed by the creaminess and overall taste of each slice. The soft dough mixture and sweetness of the red bean paste combined delightfully into an overwhelmingly fulfilling sensation with each bite. Needless to say, this was by far the best out of the three I’ve tried.
Overall, the experience at Duke Bakery greatly exceeded my expectations. Almost every aspect of it — from the service to the ambience to the pastries that I tried — was impeccably executed. One downside, however, was the pricing. Although the quality was up to par, the cost is a bit high for a chain bakery. Ultimately, I enjoyed my visit to Duke and would recommend it to anyone looking to venture out of their comfort zone and try something new.
Written by Ashley Liang, Staff writer
Photo by Ashley Liang