The Pastries Are Everything at Stonemill Matcha

Matcha tea itself is almost beside the point, so don’t expect yet another cafe retread.

Stonemill Matcha. Photo by Peter Lawrence Kane

Matcha matcha mochi is the name of the quiet hero among pastry chef Mikiko Yui’s wide range of Japanese-derived sweets. Compared to the flashier items — a spongy roll cake filled with seasonal fruits and coconut cream, a pâte de choux that looks like it’s erupting black sesame filling — this humble square looks destined to play a background part. Being the exact shade of late-spring green that people associate with powdered green tea, it further appears to be straightforward in taste and texture.

It’s anything but. Still, the little square is just one of the 10 to 15 pastries Yui has created for Stonemill Matcha, a magnificent Tartine-inspired confectionary now open on Valencia Street that also offers an array of savory items — along with high-end utensils like matcha whisks and handcrafted ceramics.

That it happens to be housed in the former Bar Tartine is no coincidence. There, rhubarb galettes sit next to a pancake served with marmalade, mochi, and salted butter that’s the house version of a PB&J — and a frangipane that may have sake lees in it, just to add a little funk. “Souffle cheesecake” is trending hard in Japan, and Yui’s re-creation of that popular combination combines the airiness of the classic French dessert with the concussion bomb of a New York-style cheesecake. And if you’re a real mochi lover, there’s also a strawberry version made with Dirty Girls and white bean paste. (Since April 28, Tartine Manufactory has an exclusive Stonemill Matcha menu as well.)

On the savory side, chef Keisuke Akabori has equaled Yui’s inventive spirit with a chicken okayu (or Japanese porridge) made with egg, mushrooms, pickled wakame, and roasted chicken dashi. Matchazuke, a rice-and-tea dish with togarashi seven spice, makes a run for maximum depth, while the chicken katsu sandwich rests on the easily approachable satisfaction of a tonkatsu sauce. The categories aren’t absolute, either. Sweetness (of a kind) creeps in in the form of a shokupan toast served with marmalade, mochi, and salted butter.

Matcha tea might not be the primary focus, but it’s not entirely irrelevant, either. You can get a matcha latte with the option to add ginger, or a coldbrew (mizudashi) with matcha, sencha, or genmaicha. Two sparkling versions — one with yuzu and cane sugar, the other with mint, lime, and cane sugar — elevate the unassuming shade-grown tea powder into the stratosphere of refreshment. Like a julep mocktail on a dog day afternoon, they’re instantly cooling.

Stonemill Matcha, 561 Valencia St., 415-796-3876 or stonemillmatcha.com

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