My memory is hazy of prior to the original chef passing away, but they say the main difference is in the puff pastry recipe (many more layers in the original). The current recipe of the crust is different, and feels like a cross between the HK style old school puff pastry with a little bit of a cookie dough feel if that makes any sense. For me the center yolk filling is still golden, and the reason I would still go back and has stayed consistent since the 90s. The yolk is sweetened just right to my liking and you still taste incredible eggy goodness. Gudetama died with honor for GGB.
The best for me was going close to 7 pm prior to a dinner at Quince, no line and they were still fresh out of the oven. Had to eat once right there and then, of course.
The bigger difference these days is that GGB used to carry a wider assortment of regular HK style bakery baked goods like pineapple bun of their famous “French bun” but they don’t anymore because everyone and their (insert family member here) only come mostly for the signature. You’d be lucky if you can still get a banana mochi roll thing, and super lucky if you manage to get their fermented white sugar cake which is so far the best in town but still lacks the tart/acidity balance compared to run of the mill places in Hong Kong. Their “sachima” I wonder how much of that they sell, and I’m not a fan of their baked apple puffs. Used to love their butter walnut pound cake, but these days I keep the quota where it counts (the egg tarts).
Bottom line, nothing more to understand or comprehend if you don’t like GGB egg tarts. They are popular, and the center yolk is still awesomely well balanced in flavor and mouthfeel, nobody comes close. It was still superior to the one I had at Honolulu Cafe/Coffee and Bakery (Hong Kong) which is not saying a whole lot. If you are willing to brave the wait, then you are ready for 1.5 to 2 hour waits for ramen and boba imports in the South Bay.
After 3 attempts from years before, I got lucky this past January. Arrived there the 2nd day of my vacation and saw a sign on the door saying they would open a week later, so on my last day of vacation, I made the trip up from San Jose for this before driving back down to LA.
The custard was lighter, creamier, seems a bit sweeter to me… almost like having a creme brulee rather than egg custard (which explains why it’s a much brighter yellow than the golden yellow we’re used to. It was good in a different way. The line I was in was rather short, only 15 min wait. For that, I’ll buy it again. If I have to wait any longer, probably not.
Lining up at Golden Gate for their egg tart is more of a novelty exercise for me. They definitely make solid egg tarts that are quite large with a relative low price so QPR is quite high. But are their egg tarts much better than anything out there? Probably not IMO.
Personally I still think GGB egg tarts still rock overall. You can keep them unrefrigerated overnight (assuming room temperature is reasonably cool) reheat and it will still taste quite good. The puff pastry crust is not as flakey as 10+ years ago, but that damn yolk center is still great at least for me and many other fans. I don’t buy into hype and as time goes by I’ve less patience waiting in line. But this is still a solid product despite the price that is even higher than in Hong Kong. If using the overnight taste test, the competition clearly fails this. GGB’s egg tart pairs very nicely with a good coffee. I have not found that to be the case.
I also like Mr Bread’s egg tarts on Taraval (some rave about their Portugese egg tarts though it’s just ok to me), but overnight they suffer and degrade. It’s much easier to access and least costly, and will do in a pinch.
Zen Peninsula used to make the best mini tarts during dim sum years ago (although the star of the mini tarts were the puff pastry crust layers) but they lost their mojo a long time ago.
There are a lot of local Chinese haters as well for GGB for various reasons (price and long wait influencing their tasting judgement) , and they name other places in Chinatown that are better…and personally I have also tasted tarts from the competition and found them to be just ok and many I’d rather not waste quota over.
Now if you compare with the other trends sweeping the city…I’d rather line up for GGB than Gram Japanese style souffle pancakes (4 hour waits anyone?), most ramen and brown sugar boba milk tea… or maybe I’ll switch it up and once in a blue moon get a Hokkaido baked cheese tart (original flavor) from downtown SF.