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You've got to love a place where dinner is wrapped up like a dessert and dessert can justifiably serve as dinner.
Try it sometime at Fay Da Bakery at Foxwoods Resort Casino - have a little savory, have some sweets, take a few minutes over a bubble tea and go back in for more. With a dizzying selection of sweet and savory baked goods to choose from, many of which cost between $2.25 and $3.75 apiece, Fay Da is a taster's paradise.
This well-established New York City franchise hit Connecticut only a few months ago, but during a recent visit, the small storefront in Rainmaker Square was packed with customers, some of them giddy with the golden, crusty possibilities ahead of them. Yet, big crowds move along quickly thanks to a smart set-up. Step one is to grab a tray and some tongs from a well-supplied stack; then pick your poison from dozens of self-serve bins filled with the day's pastries.
There are many, many to choose from. You've got hot, meat-filled buns; sweet buns, with or without filling; fresh bulk bread and cookies packed to go; and a sinful selection of more traditional U.S.-bakery items, like cheesecakes (seven flavors thereof), mousses, cupcakes, and tarts. Another case offers whole cakes; the Mango Mousse Cake looked beautiful.
And seriously, once you start picking out your gorgeous little buns, it's tough to keep your selections down to a few. Suggestion: bring a friend with whom you don't mind sharing, and divide and conquer. Once you taste your first pastry, you're going to start thinking about which ones you want to take home.
Whether it's a hot crusty meat-filled pastry, such as the Roasted Pork Bun, or the more dough-y, sweet bun types, like, say, the Milk Cream Bun, all of what I'll call the "wrappers" are prepared beautifully. Crusty buns are flaky, thick, and moist without being greasy. The more bread-like wrappers are thick but soft, never dry, and delicately flavored.
Fillings are equally complex and well executed. The Milk Cream Bun is neither milky nor creamy, but it's very, very tasty. It's a bit like a basic cheese Danish, but lighter and a bit sweeter.
The red bean paste in the Red Bean Bun offers a pleasant, delicious surprise. It's just a bit sweet, but still sweet enough to act as a nice companion to Fay Da's very, very good iced coffee.
Try the Curry Beef Puff, and you'll experience a belly-warming curry glow mixed with flavorful beef.
The Hot Chicken Roll is a standout among many great items. Dark-meat chicken meets with a great mix of spices within crust that's like the best pot-pie you've ever consumed.
But then, of course, you've got to choose something to wash it down with, and that's no easy feat. Beyond the basics in a cold-beverage case, at least three menus of specialty beverages beckon, many of which come with either tapioca pearls or fruit jelly nestled in the bottom to add surprising flavor depth and enjoyable texture. Fruit teas and smoothies come in a nice selection of flavors, including lychee, strawberry, mango, and passionfruit. Add tapioca pearls to any of the fruit teas and you've got what's popularly known as bubble tea. A strawberry green tea on ice with tapioca pearls was refreshing beyond expectations. The chewy tapioca pearls added a nice starchy anchor to the flavorful mix of strawberry syrup and jasmine green tea. After about 15 minutes of sipping, the whole concoction seriously tasted like flowers (in a good way).
Now, if you'd rather start simple with something like a red velvet cupcake, you'll still come away happy. Piled high with frosting, the cake portion was moist and flavorful.
The single-portion strawberry mousse comes off refreshing, thanks to bakers who let the strawberry do the talking. The mousse sits on a thin layer of cake, which adds a nice depth.
But if you want a real treat that's not terribly sweet, grab a slice of the Japanese cheesecake. It's nothing like what we expect from a cheesecake, but it's possibly the ultimate dessert to have with tea. It's sponge-y, with a sweet milk type of flavor, with no cheesy, creamy topping at all but still moist and satisfying sweet. (Read: you might not feel as guilty having one of those for dessert versus the Napolean Cheesecake.)
But really, there's so much more to taste and see - much more than a stomach or two can handle in one day. Besides, the casino is big - you can walk off your meal in no time and then head back to Fay Da for Dessert Number 2. Pair great menus with upbeat and efficient staffers, and one visit pretty much guarantees another.
Rainmaker Square, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket
Cuisine: Baked goods, many with Chinese inspiration.
Atmosphere: Relatively stylish franchise space offers a few small tables and a counter; not a ton of space for relaxed noshing.
Prices: Goodies start at $2.25; whole cakes around $15.
Service: Some self-serve; fast counter help.
Credit cards: All major.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-midnight.
Handicapped access: Wide entrances seem to make for easy access.