Sound it out: It’s “mochi time” — as in time to grab a gluten-free, rice-flour donut from this 2-month-old sweet shop, which includes bubble tea service. Mochi Thai’M comes to us via 14-year-established Thai Lily’s owner Sakeo Williams, who partnered with a couple of her restaurant customers — Gregory and Tamara San Agustin — to create this.
Mochi Thai’M exists as a pandemic baby, as Williams had started selling handmade mochi donuts in 2020 to help make up for lost income at her Thai eatery. They became a hit, inspiring this scaled-up, machine-formed donut venture, where a glass partition allows an open view into the bakery. Guests can watch the batter drop into the fryer, fresh-per-order, and formed donuts (in star shapes linked together into a wheel) get dipped in big bowls of colorful glazes. Unlike typical donut shops, where flavors run out as the hours pass, here dough and glazes are refreshed throughout the day, so all flavors are always available. The process does mean that between order and delivery, it takes around 5 minutes, so it’s not quite grab-and-go. Preordering is available.
Williams makes me feel slightly better about my gluttony when she tells me those donuts have about half the calories of a typical American (yeast or cake) donut. Though they’re gluten-free, they do contain milk (Lactaid) and eggs — she’s days away from launching a vegan option when we speak in late September. Anyway, we order a full dozen for $27 (singles are $3.10, with price breaks as you scale up). That means the six flagship flavors: churro, Oreo, salted caramel, Thai tea, powdered sugar and ube. Plus four weekly special flavors we catch: Key lime, caramel apple, maple butter and pumpkin spice. To be clear: the donut batter’s uniform, and all flavorings come with the icings. Even if you’re doing a milk tea, fruit tea, smoothie or slushee, you’re probably going to want a cup of basic brewed coffee or Thai iced coffee to pair with the donuts.
The donuts come in big, pretty, house-logo boxes that are as sharp as the space’s design — bright and clean with an expansive, masterful mural featuring Thai temples, a sitting Buddha, lotus flowers and a special tribute to Williams’ parents in the form of silhouettes on a riverboat (honoring them coming to Thailand then the U.S. as war refugees from Cambodia). But I’ve digressed: Back to the donuts!
They’re delightfully doughy and beignet-esque, with a funnel-cake-like flavor. For the specials: the Key lime zings, the apple’s natural-tasting, the maple butter (Williams’ favorite) may just become permanent on the menu it’s so damn good, and pumpkin spice wows us with huge baking spice essence and rich pumpkin flavor (canned purée). She uses real fruits, not powders and synthetics. For the flagships: The powdered sugar and churro get a choice of chocolate, caramel or strawberry sauces drizzled on top, so we mix those up to try each; the sugary churros sing with cinnamon. The Oreo dust in a white vanilla glaze tastes more subtle than a direct cookie bite, and the salted caramel’s an easy winner with that ageless pairing. We’re more smitten by the island-y Thai tea and ube, though, the first a fine derivative of the drink, the second deep purple and sweet, with condensed and evaporated milk in its yam glaze.
Lastly, we do nab a taro milk tea and wintermelon milk tea plus a Cha Manao. The first holds the addictive taro sweetness and unique flavor, with rainbow jelly boba brightening sips. Wintermelon, a cucumber-like gourd with an interesting, natural caramel-like essence, benefits from a brown sugar boba pairing, and Cha Manao is composed with sweetened Thai tea, but instead of getting milk like in a Thai iced tea, it gets lime juice for a sharp citrus finish, and we toss in some grass jelly boba, mildly herby but more there for the gelatinous texture. All good stuff.