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Uncle Tetsu sends you home with Japanese cheesecake

A streamlined take-out operation makes it absurdly easy to try every flavor

A strawberry, Japanese cheesecake by Uncle Tetsu
A strawberry, Japanese cheesecake by Uncle Tetsu

While noodles, dumplings, and other savory fare draw the most attention to the Convoy District, you could practically fill a guidebook to the neighborhood based solely on singular Asian dessert restaurants. I’ll have to circle back soon to see what recent additions are doing with the likes of coconut and mango, but excitement wouldn’t let me put off visiting the district’s latest arrival: Japanese cheesecake.

Place

Uncle Tetsu

4609 Convoy St., Suite D, San Diego

If you’re unsure what to make of this distinction, consider the style’s alternate name: soufflé cheesecake. the lighter, airier take on the more familiar New York style cheesecake, made intentionally less sweet, which allows more cream cheese tang to shine through. Which proves a good thing.

At least, judging by the work of Uncle Tetsu. The decades-old cheesecake chain — originally from Hakata, Japan — has opened stores all over Asia, and in recent years has expanded into California. Hakata’s a district best known for its rich and oft-imitated style of tonkotsu ramen, but the quality of this cheesecake must come a close second.

Sponsored
Sponsored
A Japanese cheesecake chain, now open on Convoy

Like some sort of culinary magic trick, it manages to taste both crumbly and creamy, sweet and mild. Uncle Tetsu’s crustless cakes jiggle like jello molds, yet each bite nearly compares to the denser chew of a moist pound cake.

The tiny counter shop greets guests with a cartoonish Uncle Tetsu cutout, while the lack of seating makes clear the place is serious about a quick, smooth take-out game.

Priced at $13, the roughly 6-inch diameter cakes sit stacked behind the counter and ready to go, in what turns out to be pretty impressive packaging. Some sort of muslin or cheesecloth gently wraps the delicate cakes inside its cardboard box, and both unfold easily at home, allowing you to slice each cake without attempting to lift it onto a cutting board.

The daily selection of cheesecakes on display

The original, a.k.a. plain, cheesecake lets you know what this style is all about, but it’s more fun to delve into different flavors (and colors). On a daily basis, you can expect to find cakes featuring traditionally Filipino ingredients: whether the purple-hued ube, or green pandan coconut, which combines coconut with the taste of a vanilla-tasting grass.

It’s also pretty tough to go wrong with strawberry: examples of each cake sit on display, and personally, I think this cake’s soufflé texture looks perfect in pink.

Oreo cheesecake, carefully wrapped to go

I would have liked to try the pandan coconut, or any of the tea flavors occasionally offered as specials. But, with children to consider, there was no way I could leave without the Oreo cheesecake, offered on special. Despite the large Oreo wafer sitting atop its browned face, the cake’s restrained sweetness made it taste better to me than most cookies ‘n cream desserts, without ruining the kids’ enjoyment. Everybody won.

Convoy dessert enthusiasts may notice Uncle Tetsu opened in the suite next door to another popular specialist: Mochinut, the bakery that makes chewy, mochi-infused donuts. Looking at the two, side by side, made me wonder how any reasonable person can be expected to choose between such tasty treats. The 12-year-old had a different, intriguing thought: “They should do a collab.”

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A strawberry, Japanese cheesecake by Uncle Tetsu
A strawberry, Japanese cheesecake by Uncle Tetsu

While noodles, dumplings, and other savory fare draw the most attention to the Convoy District, you could practically fill a guidebook to the neighborhood based solely on singular Asian dessert restaurants. I’ll have to circle back soon to see what recent additions are doing with the likes of coconut and mango, but excitement wouldn’t let me put off visiting the district’s latest arrival: Japanese cheesecake.

Place

Uncle Tetsu

4609 Convoy St., Suite D, San Diego

If you’re unsure what to make of this distinction, consider the style’s alternate name: soufflé cheesecake. the lighter, airier take on the more familiar New York style cheesecake, made intentionally less sweet, which allows more cream cheese tang to shine through. Which proves a good thing.

At least, judging by the work of Uncle Tetsu. The decades-old cheesecake chain — originally from Hakata, Japan — has opened stores all over Asia, and in recent years has expanded into California. Hakata’s a district best known for its rich and oft-imitated style of tonkotsu ramen, but the quality of this cheesecake must come a close second.

Sponsored
Sponsored
A Japanese cheesecake chain, now open on Convoy

Like some sort of culinary magic trick, it manages to taste both crumbly and creamy, sweet and mild. Uncle Tetsu’s crustless cakes jiggle like jello molds, yet each bite nearly compares to the denser chew of a moist pound cake.

The tiny counter shop greets guests with a cartoonish Uncle Tetsu cutout, while the lack of seating makes clear the place is serious about a quick, smooth take-out game.

Priced at $13, the roughly 6-inch diameter cakes sit stacked behind the counter and ready to go, in what turns out to be pretty impressive packaging. Some sort of muslin or cheesecloth gently wraps the delicate cakes inside its cardboard box, and both unfold easily at home, allowing you to slice each cake without attempting to lift it onto a cutting board.

The daily selection of cheesecakes on display

The original, a.k.a. plain, cheesecake lets you know what this style is all about, but it’s more fun to delve into different flavors (and colors). On a daily basis, you can expect to find cakes featuring traditionally Filipino ingredients: whether the purple-hued ube, or green pandan coconut, which combines coconut with the taste of a vanilla-tasting grass.

It’s also pretty tough to go wrong with strawberry: examples of each cake sit on display, and personally, I think this cake’s soufflé texture looks perfect in pink.

Oreo cheesecake, carefully wrapped to go

I would have liked to try the pandan coconut, or any of the tea flavors occasionally offered as specials. But, with children to consider, there was no way I could leave without the Oreo cheesecake, offered on special. Despite the large Oreo wafer sitting atop its browned face, the cake’s restrained sweetness made it taste better to me than most cookies ‘n cream desserts, without ruining the kids’ enjoyment. Everybody won.

Convoy dessert enthusiasts may notice Uncle Tetsu opened in the suite next door to another popular specialist: Mochinut, the bakery that makes chewy, mochi-infused donuts. Looking at the two, side by side, made me wonder how any reasonable person can be expected to choose between such tasty treats. The 12-year-old had a different, intriguing thought: “They should do a collab.”

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