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'A sucker for cheesecake': Cheese tart café offers taste of Japan

Japanese cheese tarts are like cheesecake, but 'without the guilt,' says co-owner of Newmarket's Pablo Cheese Tart

Edmond and Rebecca Lee invite you to be adventurous.

The couple owns Newmarket's Pablo Cheese Tart, a Japanese franchise that has six locations across Canada.

Japanese cheese tarts are like cheesecake, but “without the guilt,” said Edmond, who is “a sucker for cheesecake.”

“It’s my kryptonite.”

The cheese tarts they create at Pablo are “airy and fluffy and not too sweet, so you don’t get the guilt factor but still feel satisfied,” Edmond said.

Pablo cheese tarts are created using Japanese-imported custard powder, making them authentically Japanese, albeit with a slightly different taste as the dairy comes from Canada. Japanese tarts are “custardy and are a different texture, more lava in the middle.” When you bite into them, the cheese flows out — normal for Japanese taste.

Canadian “customers thought the cheese tarts were uncooked. We adjusted it to accommodate locals.”

So, while in Japan you can choose a medium or firm tart, cheese tarts here are firm.

The couple serves a variety of cheese tart flavours at their location, including plain and chocolate, but also crème brûlée — a customer favourite — matcha, and fruit tarts made with real fruit.

They also offer seasonal selections such as a chocolate ganache with mini-eggs at Easter, a pumpkin spice in the fall and chocolate peppermint around Christmas.

Edmond says one of his favourite is a chestnut mini-tart.

“I grew up on chestnut cake. Every Chinese bakery has its own version of it.”

He also loves the apple cinnamon tart, which Rebecca said is her favourite as well. “I love apple pie.”

Edmond and Rebecca were among the first business owners in the new Davis Drive and Harry Walker Parkway plaza, with Pablo Cheese Tarts opening in April 2023.

The Markham-based couple worked in downtown Toronto in finance, where “everyone is in a rush,” Rebecca said. “I got really tired of it,” Edmond agreed. They eventually opened a bubble tea shop, selling it after realizing they needed a personal change and wanted a business that didn’t require them to be there all the time.

After trying Pablo’s cheese tarts, loving the product and the quality of it (“My mentality is if it’s Japanese, it must be good,” Edmond said), they decided to open a location in Newmarket, noticing the community was “developing rather quickly.”

“We noticed there is not much variety with an Asian flare,” Edmond said. “Why not try to bring some of that to Newmarket to try? A lot of customers say they are glad they don’t have to go south for specialty food.”

People in the Newmarket community have been welcoming and friendly, the couple said.

“They seem like they actually care,” Rebecca said. They are “very accepting, very curious about what we offer.”

In addition to the Pablo cheese tarts, the couple serves soft-serve ice cream, made with a cream cheese blend, which offers a “creamier and not that heavy” product. They also change their selection often, offering customers “alternative flavours” other than chocolate and vanilla.

Also unique to their location is the number — and variety — of drinks they sell, everything from fruit teas and smoothies to coffee, which is purchased from Hatch, a Markham roastery, roasted when they order it.

They also collaborate with different businesses to provide unique items to their customers, including a variety of cakes.

“We feel we can bring more of what is being done down south to Newmarket. Locals don’t need to travel south to get different products,” Edmond said.

Eventually, they hope to bring in more savoury items as well.

Rebecca, who has always wanted to open a café, said people can then come in for something savoury in addition to getting a dessert and coffee.

For now, they want the community to think of them for their cheesecake and dessert needs, and when they think of Pablo Cheese Tart, they think of quality. They also encourage people to “be curious about what we offer,” Edmond said.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be adventurous. We won’t disappoint.”

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