U : Dessert Story, a sister restaurant to brunch favorite Kitchen Story, is expanding to the Marina. The dessert cafe’s sequel opens at 2120 Greenwich Street this Saturday, with Japanese brunch and more of the Korean, Japanese, and Thai-influenced desserts that have made U: Dessert Story a hit in its first year of business at 3489 16th Street.
Tammy Boonlieng opened U : Dessert Story after six years at Kitchen Story, which is part of a small empire of SF brunch restaurants, including Sweet Maple, known for their “millionaire’s bacon” dish and resulting lines. While Boonlieng loves brunch, she’s also got a sweet spot for dessert, and saw a demand for a dessert cafe.
“I love the Asian desserts, and I love Japanese, Korean, and Thai culture,” says Boonlieng: Her go-to at U : Dessert Story is bingsoo, Korean shaved ice.
By evening, the new U: Dessert Story will serve that and more sweets like matcha lava cakes, but the Marina’s daytime focus will be Japanese brunch. Look out for items like omurice, an oozing Japanese egg omelette sure to cause an Instagram sensation. “We cut it and it’s bursting in front of customers — the same experience that someone gets when they visit Japan,” says Boonlieng.
“We have to eat from the eyes first... It has to look delicious.”
U : Dessert Story’s new 2120 Greenwich Street has been quiet since January, but before that, it did a bustling brunch business as Diane’s Bloody Mary Bar. That venture was one in a string of experiments tested out by the Michael Mina group at what was the Mina Test Kitchen. The Mina Group still owns the building, but is renting the space while it searches for a larger test kitchen home.
“MINA Test Kitchen has been incredibly successful, and has allowed our team the ability to test many different concepts over the past few years,” a representative for the Mina Group told Eater SF. “We’ve learned a lot, been able to tweak recipes, and think through entire concepts to include wine, beer, cocktail menus, and even what décor works well with the concepts.” Those concepts included several that found permanent homes, like International Smoke with Ayesha Curry.
For the new U : Dessert Story, “A lot of people might think the more Asian spots might be better,” says Boonlieng, referncing the Richmond and Sunset Districts. But the Marina appealed in part because it might allow her business to tap into a new customer base for her desserts: Non-Asians. “I want to teach them how to play with and get to know our Asian desserts, and our cultures more.”
To engage customers, U: Dessert Story encourages them to select their own sweetness levels and otherwise customize their orders. “I call it ‘U’ because it’s yours, the customer’s,” Boonlieng says.
U: Dessert Story’s new location will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily for brunch, then 5 p.m. until midnight for dessert.