At Cassava Bakery & Cafe, Yuka Ioroi and Kristoffer Toliao envisioned the space to be something you might find in Tokyo or metropolitan European cities. “In those spots, these super tiny spaces fill the city. We wanted it to be homey and cozy,” said Ioroi. “The comments we get the most are (that it feels) French country-ish.”
When Toliao worked at Luce at the Intercontinental Hotel, a co-worker tipped him of to the spot on Balboa Street. The couple worked with the previous owner, who was very generous and gave them easy-to-work terms to help them make their dreams of owning a restaurant come true.
Cassava is exactly how they described it; tiny yet cozy with a really warm feel to it. Inside, there might be seating for about 10 people, with a few more available outside. The kitchen is small and Toliao works behind the counter while Ioroi serves guests. “We wanted to keep the pastry and coffee shop feel so we made it the base of the operation. That’s what was here before,” said Ioroi. “But we also really wanted to add that fine coffee touch. So we decided on going with Ritual Roasters. We thought it was the closest to the quality of coffee we got in Tokyo.”
Toliao bases much of the menu on the seasons and his cultured background. There are plenty of pastries along with some unique breakfast and lunch items. There is also evidence of his kaiseki training with a Japanese breakfast offered on weekends. “ But a lot of it is what we like to eat, whether it’s Japanese or from other cultures,” said Ioroi. “It’s what’s familiar and what we grew up with.”
Wanting to expand from just running a cafe and bakery, the couple also offers “pop-up” dinners. “We eventually want to have a full restaurant but we bought a coffee shop. We wanted to sneak in ‘restaurant’ somewhere and we thought putting something together similar to the underground dinners we had at our apartment back in 2009 was a fun and good idea,” Ioroi said. “So we hold these pop-ups as a way to have a fun and creative multi-course menu. We’ve been lucky to sell out each dinner so far.”
I often find that a restaurant reflects on the tone set by the owner and chef. This is exactly the case at Cassava. Yuka and Kris are passionate about food but have also created a warm and friendly neighborhood gem. Comfort food and great, friendly service with a smile all wrapped into one small package. Cassava Bakery & Cafe is located at 3519 Balboa Street and is open for breakfast and lunch (Monday 7-3, Wednesday-Friday 7-5, Saturday & Sunday 8-5). Details on the dinner schedule are available via Twitter or Facebook.