As a born-and-bred suburbanite from Nassau County, the Long Island Railroad was the bane of my existence for a long time. So while I was slightly hesitant to make the trip from Penn Station to Bayside for Richard Eng’s doughnut pop-up inside famed Japanese matcha parlor Nippon Cha, his rotating menu of sophisticated cake and yeast varietals piqued my interest. LIRR fearers will be happy to know that the trip itself is more than pleasant; it showed off the bucolic side of Queens and ended up being less than a half hour from Manhattan.
When I saw the two cake doughnuts offered that day, chocolate five-spice cake and soba honey–whole wheat old-fashioned, I was reminded of Montana D’Alessio Barbieri’s ambitious Donut Diva pop-up inside my old favorite fatty haunt, Queens Comfort. The comparisons stop there, though. While Donut Diva makes cake doughnuts that are grandiosely gluttonous—my boyfriend and I barely managed to finish off the decadent peanut butter and Nutella drizzled banana bread doughnut, despite how delicious it was—Eng’s chef-driven creations allow his flavor combinations to shine without being too hefty. The chocolate cake doughnut was heady with herbaceous aromas of cloves and star anise, while the plain exterior of the old-fashioned masked a delightfully moist interior with sweet buckwheat and pockets of honey.
Those who prefer yeast over cake will be happy to know that those are readily available, as well—what can’t Eng do with a doughnut? I was a huge fan of his rosemary–olive oil lemon curd and strawberry rose petal–filled takes (there’s no shame in eating a box of doughnuts on the train, right?), but a special shout-out has to go to the pop-up’s matcha crème brûlée doughnut. You know the sensation when you crack the caramelized top of a custard dessert with a spoon? It feels twice as glorious when you break into it with your teeth.
39-34 Bell Boulevard, Bayside