The craze for warm and molten baked cheese tarts is getting a second wind.
Slightly more than a year after Bake Cheese Tart from Hokkaido opened to snaking queues here, another popular cheese tart chain from Japan, Pablo, will open its first Singapore outlet in Wisma Atria in early July.
The 80-seat cafe will occupy a 1,400 sq ft space on the first level of the shopping mall in Orchard Road, in a space that used to be occupied by burger restaurant Omakase Burger.
Headlining the menu are Pablo's signature cheese tarts, which are available in flavours such as cheese; matcha cheese with shiratama mochi and azuki red bean paste; chocolate cheese, and a premium cheese tart that is lightly torched, like creme brulee.
Prices for these 15cm tarts will start at $13 each. The cafe chain is famed for baking cheese tarts with varying degrees of "doneness" - like how a steak is cooked. Customers in Japan can opt for the "medium" version, which yields a wobbly and gooey cheese custard core, or the "rare" version, which is baked for a shorter period of time and oozes molten cheese filling when it is sliced.
However, diners here can sink their teeth only into the "medium" version of the cheese tart - like in Pablo's other overseas outlets.
There will also be mini baked cheese tarts in flavours such as chocolate, matcha and strawberry. The price of each piece starts at $3.50.
About 700 regular tarts and 1,000 mini tarts will be baked daily on-site, assembled from pastry shells and cheese filling imported from Japan every two weeks.
Each customer will be limited to buying two regular tarts and 12 mini tarts for takeaway.
Besides tarts, the cafe will also sell cheese softserve, smoothies in flavours such as cream cheese and apricot, mango and matcha and shiratama mochi, cheese cookies and millefeuille box sets, iced coffee topped with cheese softserve as well as merchandise.
Pablo is being brought in by Caerus Holdings, which runs New York confectionery chain Lady M in Orchard Central and Westgate mall.
Mr Vijay K. Pillai, 31, executive director of Caerus Holdings, first tried Pablo cheese tart in 2012, while on holiday in Osaka, and could not get enough of its "aroma, light cheese filling and tasty crust".
Early last year, he approached Pablo to start the Singapore franchise and spent eight months negotiating a deal, which also includes securing the franchise rights for India and Sri Lanka.
He says: "Pablo is a fun and engaging brand and a lot of Singaporeans are familiar with it when they travel to Japan, so it makes sense to bring the cheese tarts here."
He pumped in a "high six-figure sum" for this venture.
Like other Pablo outlets, the shop will have an open kitchen for customers to see how the tarts are made.
Besides the ingredients for the tarts, ovens, baking moulds and tables will also be imported from Japan.
To ensure the quality is consistent, the Pablo Singapore team will travel to Osaka for three weeks to learn the ropes. A trainer from Pablo Japan will be based here for the first six months of the store's operations and will visit the shop every month thereafter.
Over the past year, local bakery chains such as BreadTalk and Prima Deli have come up with their own versions of the cheese tart.
On what sets Pablo apart from them, Mr Vijay says: "We provide a dine-in experience with a wider variety of cheese desserts, instead of being known for a few flavours of cheese tarts."
Prices are "slighter higher" here than in Japan, due to the costs of importing ingredients.
Pablo is also known for its seasonal flavours and Mr Vijay hopes to introduce new flavours of cheese tarts every quarter.
He also plans to open a second outlet this year and have four outlets by next year.
Pablo was opened in Osaka in 2011 by Mr Masamitsu Sakimoto, who experimented for six months before coming up with cheese tarts that have varying textures. He named the chain after Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.
Over the years, 37 outlets have sprouted up in Japan and there are nine overseas outlets in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The chain sells about five million tarts annually in Japan.