I love desserts. There is no way I can live my life without desserts every now and then. If I didn’t have to worry about my weight or health, I will have them every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner… And if it can be a Japanese sweets, even better! The great thing about NYC is that you don’t have to fly all the way to Japan to enjoy Japanese desserts. I have been wanting to visit one of Japanese chain cafe called HARBS, and I finally made it over there! We went to the one located in Upper East Side. They have great corner lot, which is always a plus. They say that their name “HARBS” derives from the word “herbs” (no-brainer there). Herbs can bring relaxation to mind and body, and they want to offer food that provide relaxation and bring smile on customers’ faces, similar to the effect from herbs. So, they named their cafe Harbs, coined from herbs.
Right at the entrance, we were greeted by fabulous and beautiful cakes! They had a large refrigerated glass case at the front, and smaller one to the left of the entrance, so that the cakes can be seen from both streets by people walking by the cafe.
A female staff came over immediately after we entered, and took us to a table by the window. She asked if we wanted to sit at the table in the back or by the window, and we chose the window seat. It is nice that they gave us options on which seat we wanted. They have a good amount of seating for a cafe. More narrow and long, with an open kitchen to the right. The seating wraps around at the back, but only holds a handful of seats back there. The inside was bright with large windows, another benefit of having a corner lot.
We were there for brunch, but mainly for their cakes. So, we decided to order one brunch to share, so that we will have room for extra desserts. That is how we do it! They have a pretty good Lunch Set ($20) that they offer every day from 11am to 3pm. It comes with a choice of any sandwich or salad, today’s cake, and a cup of coffee or English Breakfast tea. We went with English Breakfast Tea, which comes with refills upon request. It came in a nice large cup, pretty nice tea. We needed asked for a refill just once while we were there, since each cup is a good portion.
For me, I ordered Royal Milk Tea ($9), which came in a pot. It is one of their most expensive tea. Their tea is not cheap, they go from $7 to $9, and no free refills. I was curious of how the milk tea was served, so it was interesting to see a milk tea that were already made in a pot, instead of adding milk yourself to a tea. And there was no tea leaves or tea bags in a pot, so the strength of the tea was constant the entire time, which was nice.
The pot was not a large pot, and it held just about a cup and a half worth of tea. It would’ve been nice if it had full two cups of tea in there… But then again, the table was not big, so it was a bit of struggle to fit everything on the table comfortably. Both tea was served unsweetened, so you can control the sweetness of the tea.
For the main, we chose their Omelet Sandwich. They had two choices, and we went with Bacon & Cheese Omelet, which is made with bacon, spinach, onion, cheese, fresh tomato and mayonnaise. Their sandwiches are made with thickly sliced Japanese style white bread, and comes with side salad. It also had two potatoes on the side as well. The potatoes were a bit harder than I expected, and didn’t have much seasoning on it, but it had its natural fresh flavor, so it was ok. Salad was mountainful, super fresh and tasty. Not soaked or drowning in dressing, but limited seasoning. Very refreshing.
This sandwich was huge! And yes, it had a whole omelet between the sliced bread. The bread was fluffy and tasty, not often that I get to eat Japanese bread, this alone was a treat. The toast was nice and buttery in the inside, without losing the slightly crunchy crust. The omelet was big, with a good amount of fresh ingredients. It was creamy and not over-cooked, which is the way I like, so I was happy. The only downside to creamy omelet is that the bottom toast got soggy, but since it was very tasty, I didn’t mind it at all. It was a perfect size to share among two of us!
For “today’s dessert” they had three options to choose from on this day. We went with one of their most popular cake, Mille Crepe. It is made with six layers of thin crepes, filled with fresh fruits and mixed cream. The staff told us that the portion served for lunch set is smaller than a regular slice. We could get a regular slice for added cost, but we wanted to see the actual lunch set portion. And yes, it was pretty thin slice… But, it still had loads of fresh fruits, all ripe and sweet. The cream was not overly sweet but elegant and velvety. Each crepe was delicate and fluffy, pretty nice piece of cake. At HARBS, they never freeze their cake, but make them fresh every day. You can really see it and taste the freshness with this Mille Crepe. While we were there, we saw a big delivery of freshly made cakes, so I assume they are all made at their Chelsea location.
For additional cake, we ordered Green Tea Mousse Cake ($10). It is made with bittersweet green tea sponge and
mousse with Dainagon red beans, covered with fresh whipped cream. This slice was nice and huge! Yes!!! And it was awesomely delicious… The mouse was velvety, with real green tea flavor. The combination of bitter and sweet flavors were perfectly balanced, and generous amount of fluffy whipped cream on top…oh my! It was a symphony to my taste buds. I loved the little red bean on the bottom, adding extra texture and flavor to the cake.
After that, we decided to get just one more cake. I mean, the Mille Crepe was not even half the slice…so, we had to get solid two-plus slices for us, right? Choosing the last cake was much harder than I thought… We had to tell ourselves that we can come back again for more. Eventually, we went with Marron Cake ($9), which is made with layers of white sponge, chestnut and sweet potato cream, and crushed chestnut with a hint of Rum. This really took me back to my days in Japan. It reminded me of one of their typical Japanese cake, which is also one of my favorite. The cream on top was decadent and rich, not too soft nor hard, but had good consistency. Great chestnut flavor, and I loved the chunks of small chestnut in the cream filling. Sweet without being overly sweet, great piece of cake!
They have one uni-sex bathroom in the back, with the door lock that shows “vacant” or “occupied” at the door knob. In the inside, they had two locks, make sure you lock the one of the bottom that changes the sign on the outside of the door.
Inside was roomy, clean and bright. Nice stock of soft toilet paper. The only thing was that there was no hook or small cabinet to put your personal items like purse or jacket. They had more than enough room for that in here.
The staffs were mostly Japanese, polite and efficient, not very friendly but we were well taken care of. When we first sat at the table, the Sun light was coming in really strong, and the staffs pull down the blinds for us. I feel like they are more friendly with the customer who speak to them in Japanese…? Maybe I will do that next time. And there will definitely will be a next time, we gotta get more of their amazing cakes! The price point is high, but so is the quality of food and tea that they serve. And the portion is pretty good too, other than the lunch set portion of the cake. And as they have some seasonal cakes, there will always be something new to try!
HARBS – 1374 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10075