NEW YORK (Circa) - It's fitting that a restaurant called Double Chin is the birthplace of cube toast, an extravagant, calorie-heavy dessert made up of an entire loaf of deep-fried French toast and endless toppings. Just one bite makes it all too easy to forget about self-control, but if you made a habit out of eating this decadent dish? You'd likely end up with a double chin of your own.
But Double Chin’s name comes with a double meaning. The Boston restaurant of guilty pleasures was started by two Chins: Emily and Gloria Chin, sisters aiming to honor their family's ties to Chinatown with this venture.
“Our family has had businesses in Chinatown for as long as I’ve known,” said Emily. “It only felt suitable that we continued the family legacy by opening up a restaurant of our own.”
Though Emily gives her sister credit for coming up with the name “Double Chin,” launching the restaurant and creating its iconic cube toast were both joint efforts. The inspiration for the latter comes from the box-like structure of a popular Asian dessert called Taiwanese honey toast, as well as the sisters’ mutual childhood love for French toast. Cube toast begins with a large hunk of freshly baked brioche, which gets carved into a hollow cube; its insides are carefully cut into several smaller cubes. Each cube is dipped in French toast batter and fried to perfection before being reassembled into a loaf.
“‘Cause who doesn’t love French toast like that?” Emily said with a laugh.
That’s only the very start of the process. By the time that an order of cube toast reaches a diner's table, its structure is completely obscured by ice cream, mochi, and much more. The exact toppings vary depending on which of the five varieties you choose, but the astounding quantity of delectable garnishes covering the toast is consistent across the board.
Like the cube toast itself, the inspiration behind several of the toppings also stems from a place of nostalgia for the Chin sisters (“We grew up eating Pocky sticks,” explained Emily). Fresh fruit is added to each order to at least give it the slightest suggestion of having some sort of nutritional value. The combination of textures, flavors, and colors works to make the dish as delicious as it is Instagram-worthy.
Of the five types, the "Matcha Ma Call It" is the restaurant’s most popular - and Emily’s favorite. “The way the matcha pairs with red bean is really delicious,” she said.
Double Chin makes the red bean in-house, and the brioche bread is baked fresh every day in their bakery next door. For those in search of a quicker snack or a slightly less colossal sweet treat, the attached Bao Bao Bakery serves specialty baked goods, like red bean buns and matcha cream puffs. The visual appeal from Double Chin’s menu carries over to recently renovated bakery’s adorable pastries and gorgeous cakes. Limiting yourself to just one or two items is not an easy task.
Don’t have much of a sweet tooth? Don’t worry, you won’t find yourself leaving hungry. Savory dishes make up a large portion of Double Chin’s Asian fusion menu, each as creative and indulgent as their famous cube toast. You’ll find yourself deciding between fries made of spam and taro, mac and cheese with an Asian twist, and ramen fried chicken, as Hong Kong classics get an Americanized update. It's a clear reflection of the sisters’ upbringing in a Chinese household in Boston.
And should you truly want to treat yourself, the cocktails are just as playful as the food, from watermelon lychee soju served in an actual watermelon to a “Bloody Gangnam Style” topped with a scallion pancake, soft-shell crab, and bacon. If the vibe of the restaurant and its cuisine inspires the same nostalgia for you as it does for the Chin sisters, be sure to try the “Adult Capri Fun,” a boozy, light-up version of the beloved childhood favorite.
But on a menu filled with stand-out dishes, the cube toast is certainly something to save room for, even if it means splitting the enormous plate with a friend or two. It’s not uncommon for diners to show up solely for the cube toast. Some travelers visiting Boston choose Double Chin as the very first stop on their itinerary, seeking to try out the dessert as soon as they land in the city.
Hitting chords of both sentimentality and trendiness, marked by immense aesthetic appeal and an explosive flavor profile, decorated with sweets galore and healthy fresh fruits, the cube toast has something for everyone. It’s as enticing for those who grew up in Chinatown as it is for those just in town for the day, as intriguing for Instagram foodies as it is for drunk college kids in search of late-night munchies.
(And if you find yourself falling into that last group? Double Chin is happy to indulge your intoxicated cravings, staying open till 4 a.m. on the weekends.)