SakuSaku Flakerie becomes Cleveland Park’s go-to bakery for French-Japanese pastries
Over the past year, an American-Japanese bakery at an Italian restaurant in Cleveland Park has wowed customers with exceptionally crunchy flaky pastries stuffed with unorthodox fillings. From yuzu flower croissant to cardamom rose bread and lemon meringue “cruffin” pie, each of the creations of baker Yuri Oberbillig at SakuSaku Flakerie bursting with delicate and seasonal flavors.
Despite difficult opening conditions in the midst of a pandemic, Trattoria Al Volo’s little short pastry shop has built up a loyal fan base of croissants lovers. The regular menu includes a Gruyère za’atar croissant ($ 5.50) in which the rich hazelnut cheese complements the herbal and sumac flavor of the Middle Eastern spice blend. Another croissant combines a pistachio filling with two dark chocolate bars. The bakery recently partnered with Lost Sock Roasters for coffee. He takes orders for personalized pies and cakes for special occasions.
The idea to make a twice-baked peanut butter and jelly croissant – filled with a layer of coarse peanut butter, toasted peanuts, and a raspberry jelly spread – came from Oberbillig observing her stepfather’s lunch routine. “I thought I could turn this into a croissant!” She laughs.
SakuSaku Flakerie (3417 Connecticut Ave NW) also offers the traditional shokupan, a milk bread typically found in any good konbini. (Japanese convenience stores). Oberbillig is from Kobe, Japan. She started working in the restaurant industry 10 years ago, learning to cook herself from videos of chefs whose techniques she admired. While his Japanese hometown is world famous for its beef, baked goods are a lesser-known specialty.
“Kobe has the most bakeries in all of Japan,” says Oberbillig. “Because of its very ancient history and its huge port, it has attracted different cultures. This is why we have a lot of European style bakeries and pastry shops there.
The 32-year-old pastry chef has cultivated her talent internationally, first by moving to Vancouver, Canada. She arrived in the United States at the end of 2017 after a few years of working in bakeries in Japan. Her attention to detail and precision stems from an early desire to become a fashion designer. “Like in fashion, shapes and designs are very important to me when I cook,” she says.
Oberbillig’s husband Jason helps her at the store and says she is “obsessed” with practicing the techniques. After a long day at the store, she often brings her work home, trying new recipes until she is satisfied with the results. Every morning, she monitors the weather, the humidity of the air and the temperature in the kitchen in order to adapt the settings of her oven for maximum desquamation.
This fall, the chef went apple picking at Homestead Farm in Maryland. Salted Caramel Apple Turnovers and Classic Apple Pies will be popping up as limited promotions at SakuSaku throughout the season.
Oberbillig previously worked at several DC bakeries, including A Baked Joint and the French chain Maison Kayser. When Firehook Bakery closed next to Trattoria Al Volo in the summer of 2020, the owners of the pasta restaurant seized the opportunity to expand. Partner Rolando Frias approached Oberbillig, giving him carte blanche to choose a name and develop a menu. “When I tasted his croissants, I was amazed,” says Frias.
Like pastries, the name of the bakery borrows from different cultures. “SakuSaku” is a Japanese word that describes the typical crackling sound when eating freshly made puff pastry. Jason Oberbillig proposed the “Flakerie” label as a puff, bakery and pastry coat rack.