If the first taste is with the eyes then stepping inside New York’s Supermoon Bakehouse amounts to a feast. A long pink terrazzo counter is the setting for an eye-catching line-up of pastries: twice-baked croissants; stuffed doughnuts; and the bakery’s signature cruffins topped with multicoloured chocolate shards, honeycomb chunks, pie crumb and dehydrated fruit. It's an alluring visual menu that could be mistaken for an art exhibit by passersby.
Inside the sparse but sleek shop customers (myself included) mill about with phones out, snapping Insta-bait pastries, iridescent takeaway boxes and glowing neon signage that reads, “Bite Me, NYC”.
“Do you guys want a photo in front of the wall?” a fellow customer asks, gesturing toward the bright-pink neon. “Everyone has a photo in front of the wall … it’s, like, the Statue of Liberty and this.”
Being in the company of New York’s most iconic symbol is an impressive feat for any bakery, doubly so for one owned by two Melburnians. But Supermoon Bakehouse has serious pedigree. Chef Ry Stephen and designer Aron Tzimas were two-thirds of the team behind San Francisco’s hugely popular Mr Holmes Bakehouse, where Stephen was credited with introducing the cruffin to the city.
After two years at Mr Holmes, Stephen and Tzimas decamped to New York, setting up Supermoon in the Lower East Side in late 2017. “I always wanted to come to New York,” Stephen tells Broadsheet. “San Francisco is a beautiful city, it’s a city that I could settle down in. But I wanted to keep running the race a bit more. And New York is a very good city for that.”
But the success of Stephen’s pastries at Mr Holmes was no guarantee they’d translate to New York. “In San Francisco you can kind of do whatever you want and people will probably be like, ‘Oh that’s cool, I’ll come check it out. I get it’. But [in New York] you have to be part of the city and do what the city wants and needs.”
Supermoon’s NYC (New York Croissant) is designed for locals: lox, cream cheese and capers, rolled and baked into an everything-spice (a bagel seasoning of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic and onion) covered croissant. The pastrami-spice croissant is another nod to the classic New York deli. It comes stuffed with thick-cut slices of pastrami, sauerkraut and mustard.
There’s still a taste of home on the menu though. Sausage rolls began as a secret weekend menu item but are now available every day – if you arrive early enough. On two of my visits they’re already sold out. The team makes them by grinding pork with mushrooms, then adding garlic, onion and chilli and cooking the mixture “low and slow” in the oven before adding a few other spices and rolling it all in house-made puff pastry. “Not a lot of people know it,” says Stephen. “But everyone who tries it is always about it, because we put a lot of work into it.”
When I visit in the lead up to Christmas, there’s a limited-edition cruffin pumped with gingerbread cream, rolled in gingerbread-spiced sugar and topped with vanilla cream and gingerbread pieces. A red and green striped croissant is filled with peppermint cream and raspberry jam and topped with green, red and white chocolate shards. Most striking is the snownut: a coconut-cream filled doughnut dipped in coconut “snow” (coconut glaze and coconut flakes) and speared with an edible “pipette” (a winter booster shot of lemon, honey and ginger). It’s the stuff of food bloggers’ dreams.
Rolling updates of Stephen’s creations have earned the bakery a massive following on Instagram, and New York Magazine’s Grubstreet rated Supermoon's doughnuts number one in a wrap up of “The Absolute Best Doughnuts in New York”. Stephen's Insta-era take on tradition has been embraced by tourists and locals alike, the latter including Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, and he says one of the Jonas Brothers recently stopped by, though he’s not sure which one. He’s not star-struck by famous customers.
“My celebrities are people like Kate Reid from Melbourne’s Lune Croissanterie. She came in before we opened … I’ve had some good chef friends from bakeries over in San Francisco come in and visit. They’re the ones who, for me, are celebrities. They’re people I respect, that I look up to.”
Stephen is happy for people to peek into the Supermoon process. A glass wall separates the kitchen and shopfront, letting customers watch him and the team laminate, shape, proof and bake their buttery, flaky, doughy creations. He’s there six days a week – from 3am to 5.30pm. Bedtime is 8.30pm, then the whole thing starts over again.
“That’s just how it is,” Stephen says. “That’s the industry. That’s what I signed up for. There are easier ways to make money. That’s why it's not all about the bottom line. It has to be about the product and creating something.”
Stephen and Tzimas are now looking to expand to other locations in New York and internationally – specifically Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. And they’re “definitely open” to an Australian outpost, so you might see a Supermoon rising here soon.
120 Rivington Street, New York
Mon to Thu 8am–10pm