Honey Bakery lives inside the Keystone Square shopping center. I entered the complex on Fifth and Keystone and found the Chinese bakery five doors left of Port of Subs. Dennis Lei, owner and master baker, serves house-made Chinese baked goods and will soon be expanding his already delectable dim sum menu.
In researching Honey Bakery, I came across an article stating that Lei left a casino career to pursue baking tutelage in the Canton region of China. I asked Lei to elaborate on the time he spent there. He advised that the hotel he stayed in employed a veteran Chinese baker. It was not an option to study under the baker in the hotel’s kitchen, so Lei learned from his teacher in private residences and rented spaces. I suspect very few would travel across the world to learn baking in such a guerrilla format.
Lei’s baked goods reflect the effort it took him to learn the craft. All the goods at Honey Bakery are made with Cantonese recipes. In addition to sticky buns, cookies, and the like, Lei also boasts a robust bubble tea menu. He makes the tapioca pearls in-house and only uses fresh fruit in the drinks.
Also offered at Honey Bakery are made-to-order cakes. The Mixed Fresh Fruit Cake dominates the colder seasons, and the Mango Cake becomes very popular as the weather warms.
The dining area is slim, so I ordered my food to-go. I opted for the Red Bean Pineapple Bun, Coconut Pineapple Bun, Curry Chicken Bun, Mushroom Chicken Bun, the Steamed Sausage Buns, and the Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf. The buns in the front display range from $1.20 to $1.50 and are sold individually. The Steamed Sausage Buns were $7.00 for eight pieces. The Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf, off the dim sum menu, was $3.25 for one serving.
All the baked buns were soft, airy on the inside, and just a bit sticky and glossy on the outside. Lei advised that he applies a sticky glaze to the baked buns giving them their finish. Each bun type has a signature of sorts baked into the top to differentiate one type from another.
The Red Bean Pineapple Bun will satisfy those with a sweet tooth. Though the pineapple flavor in the sugar coating was quite mild, the red bean paste on the inside was almost like sugary mashed-potatoes. I realize that description may not totally flatter the bun, but it’s truly unique and I very much enjoyed it.
The Coconut Pineapple Bun was just a bit less sweet than its red bean counterpart. The inner coconut was airy, buttery, and had just a bit of chew. I loved it.
The Curry Chicken Bun had the perfect ratio of sauce to solid filling. The curry was mild but flavorful. Turmeric gave the bun a pleasant fragrance. The solid fillings included chicken, carrots, potatoes, and onion.
The Mushroom Chicken Bun tasted of soy sauce, mushroom, and umami. The small chicken cubes, chopped white mushrooms, and onions all went well together.
The Steamed Sausage Buns were adorable and delicious. The sausage reminded me of a very mild breakfast sausage with an ever so subtle sweetness. The buns themselves were soft, airy, and had that distinct steamed-bread quality. The appearance was crescent roll-esque mixed with the Michelin Man.
The final dish was by far my favorite. The Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf was unlike anything I have ever tried. The lotus leaves impart a fragrant tea-like quality to the rice. Per the menu, I expected sticky rice in a lotus leaf. Those ingredients serve as the skeleton for the culinary magic happening inside. Because I wasn’t aware of additional filling at purchase, I didn’t ask Lei any further questions about the dish. Inside the rectangular rice block was what appeared to be Chinese sausage, ground pork, and cured egg yolk. At $3.25, every northern Nevada citizen should try this magnificent creation.
Lei’s dim sum menu is already strong with Siu Mai with Shrimp, Siu Mai with Mushroom, Chicken Feet, Pork Spare Ribs three ways, and Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf. Current steamed selections include Steamed Sausage Buns, Steamed Egg Custard Buns, and Steamed BBQ Pork Buns. Coming soon are Steamed Shrimp Dumplings and Rice Noodle Rolls.
Honey Bakery is located at 403 Keystone Avenue in Reno. They are open Wednesday through Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays. Call 775-322-6668 for a to-go dim sum order or a custom cake.