Last updated on May 4, 2016
The newly opened Sonder Dessert hasn’t done any active marketing, but matcha afficionados have already descended upon it in droves. There wasn’t any fanfare, just more and more pictures of matcha desserts appearing on Instagram from elated customers. We tried to go there on what turned out to be just the end of their first week of opening, but they were already sold out by early evening, well ahead of what they had anticipated, as as they apologetically said, they then could not open for the next couple of days because they had to get more stock in..
We were more successful on our next attempt. It was packed despite it being a weeknight, with no available seats either indoors or outdoors. Unsure of how it worked, we joined the line at the counter. When we got to the front of the line, we were informed that it was counter service so we were supposed to find seats, then come to the counter to order. There had been no signage to indicate that, however. They did clear a table outside soon after other customers left though, and took our drink and dessert orders.
What I had seen on Instagram had already provided some pre-planning when it came to what to order, but there were even more options available that had not appeared in photos yet. Boards with lists of the drink options hang over the service counter, divided into hot drinks (coffees), cold drinks, matcha green tea, hojicha green tea, speciality drinks, and premium japanese teas. Those drinks, as well as a page of matcha, hojicha, and black sesame desserts are listed in menus in wooden clipboards that hang from the railing at the counter.
There is also a glass cabinet of cakes, and further on, one with ice cream. The ice cream flavours include pandan, black sesame, and sticky rice, besides the to be expected matcha and hojicha. There are also more western flavours like mint chocolate and salted caramel.
The colour palatte is black, white, and grey, and it has a clean and minimalist aesthetic overall. Indoors, there are white tiles at the counter, and white-painted bricks on the wall. There is the option of booth-style seats partitioned by black frames extending to the ceiling, reminescent of shoji screens without the paper panels. Lights and pots of greenery hang overhead. There are a few smaller tables as well indoors, and a large communal table with a wooden top. The seats are white metal chairs or black metal stools. Grey concrete-look floor tiles provide a neutral base. It rather reminded me of the Kettle Black in Melbourne, airy, light, and relaxed.
Outdoors, it is cafe-style seating, with slatted wooden tabletops, and black metal chairs against them. Speakers play R&B music both indoors and outdoors. While it is air-conditioned indoors, the outdoor seating area relies on ambient breezes. It was a pleasant temperature when we were there, but it might be less so in hotter weather. It is still early days of the cafe opening though, and I’m sure that will be addressed in time.
We ordered a matcha frappe, a matcha green tea parfait, and wanted to get a matcha green tea panna cotta as well, but that was sold out, so we ordered a matcha green tea creme brulee instead. We were told that it would be a roughly 20 to 30 minute wait, as it was busy (we could clearly see that).
We went to the table outside, and despite what they had said, it wasn’t long before our drinks and desserts arrived.
The matcha frappe was first, a promising shade of green. The first sips confirmed that it did indeed have the right matcha taste and strength of flavour. After so many previous disappointments.. (see Silva Spoon and Velo Project as recent examples) It had that subtle natural sweetness, and didn’t need any more added. You could tell that this was a proper matcha drink, as opposed to made from the sweetened pre-mixes that some other places do. The ice grains in the frappe were a little coarse to begin with, but it was fine after they melted a little.
The matcha green tea parfait arrived next, and it was very much like what we had had at the numerous Nana’s Green Teas across Japan. (I keep meaning to do a post on the parfaits we had in Gion, then Osaka, then Tokyo.. It was a bit of a Nana’s Green Tea tour.) It had matcha agar jelly, vanilla soft serve, matcha ice cream, cornflakes, sweet adzuki bean paste, rice-flour mochi, whipped cream (we removed that), and matcha syrup. The parfait is quite a sight to behold, and the tower comes to the table, one of the first things you wonder is where to begin. The answer is, at the top. The components, however, go well together, and are meant to be had together for the different textures and flavours. The matcha green tea ice cream on the top was creamy and had a good matcha flavour, and again wasn’t overly sweetened. The rice-flour mochi were soft and had a pliable, glutinous chewiness. The adzuki beans were sweet without being overpoweringly so. The cornflakes added a crunchy texture, and a bit of saltiness for balance. The vanilla soft serve between the layers was smooth. The matcha jelly at the bottom had firmness from the agar, and when eaten on its own, it had good flavour without bitterness.
The matcha green tea parfait, however, highlighted the issue with the wooden slatted tabletops. The distance between the slats meant that melting ice cream or ingredients that didn’t make the transfer on the spoon between the glass and your mouth could fall between the slats and land on your clothes. The slats also weren’t completely even, making the wooden board the tall parfait glass was on rock a bit when moved, which, given the high centre of gravity of the tall glass, almost resulted in a minor disaster a couple of times.
The matcha green tea creme brulee arrived in a green miniature casserole pot. Having seen yellow and blue pots come out as well, I suspect they are colour-matched to their contents (yellow being the vanilla bean creme brulee, blue being the black sesame creme brulee). It makes for a more matchy-matchy presentation with the accompanying ice cream, and probably makes it easier for them to recognise which ones to send out when the orders come through rather than sampling as they go (who wants a creme brulee that has already been cracked?). The matcha ice cream on the side looked like someone had accidentally dropped their bambini cone. (that would be a very upset child somewhere.) It is a cute presentation, but I’m not sure that it could be described as a mini savoury waffle basket. The ice cream with it was the same as had been on the matcha green tea parfait, nicely flavoured. There was a satisfying crack through the caramelised top of the creme brulee. It had more of a mousse texture than the smooth custard we were expecting though. Perhaps they had meant to make a different dessert.. It did have a good matcha flavour, and was faintly salty.
The staff were cheerful, friendly, and efficient. They cleaned down tables soon after customers left so others could have seats, and were always smiling and polite despite the busyness.
One of the owners (I think) told us that they source their matcha from a small farm in Japan, and that they wanted to bring a good product here. They also wanted to bring the experience of the desserts that they had had in Japan back, and that was definitely something we appreciated.
Sonder Dessert is certainly on to a good thing. There are some minor kinks to work out, but I can see them going from strength to strength. I only hope we can find seats there when we next turn up.. On the plus side, they are open until midnight every day (except for Mondays, when they are closed), so there are a number of hours to try to get in and get a matcha fix. It is one of the few real late night dessert destinations in Brisbane, and well worth visiting.
Price point: Matcha and hojicha drinks $5.50 to $8. Desserts $12 to $14.50.
Value: Good. You can taste the matcha.
Address: Shop 7c Farne Street (at the corner of Beenleigh Road, behind the Pinelands Shopping Centre), Sunnybank Hills
Phone: None yet..
Website: Sonder Dessert
P.S. Sonder, by the way, is a made up word, from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig. It is defined as the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk. – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Ponder that while you’re sipping your matcha latte.