Notice it's just a few doors down from Pinkberry? Think Japanese stuffed pancakes will take off like tart frozen yogurt? It's at least situated in the right zip code. 90210!
In the front window, you can see them making the "imas" as Fulfilled likes to call them.
Owner Susumu Tsuchihashi left the corporate world and traveled back and forth from Japan for the past year to research the history and method for making this popular snack. Imagawa-yaki is a stuffed pancake that originated in Tokyo, Japan in the early 1800s during the Edo period. At Fulfilled, the imas are made according to tradition, but the fillings are a modern fusion of ingredients.
When we entered, we were immediately treated to Lil Misa's Tea, an iced azuki (Japanese red bean) green tea honey latte with chili flakes sprinkled on top. The milky tea was a tad on the sweet side and reminded me of che (Vietnamese pudding). The straws were too small though so I couldn't suck up any of the mashed red beans. Note: need bigger straws. Just one of those things they needed to iron out before the grand opening a few days later.
The sweet and savory flavors.
Here's a video of them making the imagawa-yaki. Well, of them trying to unstick the imas. They had a bit of trouble since the pans hadn't been seasoned enough. You've probably seen these made on a copper pan at Mitsuri Cafe in Little Tokyo, which you can see on Henry Chan's Food Videos. Unfortunately, Tsuchihashi wasn't allowed to use copper pans in Beverly Hills and the cast aluminum pans were more difficult. He says the pans are now well-seasoned and there aren't any more problems.
He also improved the batter and more than doubled the filling. So just imagine these photos with twice the filling.
The first ima that I tried was the Nutty Buddha with Ghirardelli chocolate, toffee, and crunchy peanut butter. It was chocolatey, gooey, and warm. I wouldn't mind waking up to this for breakfast.
We were also given champagne, which was a good palate-cleanser before sampling savory imas.
This was the Green Ninja with spinach, feta cheese, and sundried tomato. Hopefully with the doubled fillings the flavors will come out more. I tasted the feta but the spinach and tomatoes were pretty muted.
Honey Yakuza with goat cheese, mission figs, honey, walnut, and cracked black pepper. Hmm. I don't remember tasting the black pepper. The goat cheese and figs were a great combo though. One of my favorites of the night.
I think this was the Spicy Samurai with chicken apple sausage, pepper jack cheese, green chili, and fresh cilantro.
Or was it the Sumo Italiano with Prosciutto di Parma, smoked ham, aged Parmesan, and fresh basil? I remember both looking similar, tried them both, and liked them both so you can't go wrong either way.
Tsuchihashi said he decided to set up shop in Beverly Hills because it attracts all ethnic groups as well as tourists.
Paris Hilton is a repeat customer. After she leaves the shop, followed by a swarm of paparazzi, Fulfilled gets an immediate surge of business, he said.
So will "imas" become the latest craze to hit SoCal? Well, it's got the location, the celebrities (Check out the Fulfilled website for pictures of Carmen Electra, Rick Fox, and Tori Spelling enjoying imas.), and the trendy product.
And around $2.75 each, it's priced on par with a cupcake or a small frozen yogurt. I'd far rather eat an ima than a cupcake any day. The frugal side of me, though, will point out that I can buy the Chinese version with traditional fillings at the San Gabriel Superstore for 60 cents. Of course, at that price, I don't get gourmet ingredients or the chance to bump into Paris with a gaggle of photogs in tail.
This economy isn't the best time to start a business, but Tsuchihashi didn't want to delay launching his dream. I gotta give him props for that and really hope Fulfilled takes off.
August 31, 2009 Update: This shop's location is closed. Fulfilled still offers catering, however.
Who else ate at Fulfilled?
Cathy of Gastronomy liked the Nutty Buddha and Honey Yakuza flavors.
I also had the chance to meet Pirikara of Mikey Hates Everything who says Tsuchihashi even sold his condo to finance his dream.
9405 S. Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Free two-hour parking is available across the street with entrances on Beverly and Canon Drives.
1 year ago today, tagged!