Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Review: Ikuka: Family restaurant business branches out

STOCKING UP THE SWEETS — Ikuka owner Miyuka Ozawa neatly arranges a tray of her shop’s signature Kabocha Burnt Basque Cheesecakes to display at Ikuka’s Los Altos State Street Market stall. “Our pastries are made in a separate kitchen.” Ozawa said. “I deliver the cakes here every morning.”

Los Altos’ State Street Market food court is flooded with voices. Children and adults alike crowd the shops, their faces lighting up at the sight of food — from pizza smothered with sauces and seasonings to big bowls of ramen served out of a small stall kitchen. Past the tables and h

ungry foodies, in a corner, almost isolated from the hustle and bustle of it all, is Ikuka. 

In June 2023, owner Miyuki Ozawa opened Ikuka, a shop serving Japanese pastries and desserts. Over a decade prior, her mother had opened several Bay Area Japanese restaurants including Sumika Grill, Orenchi Ramen and La Casa Mia. 

According to the website, Ikuka is short for “Imo Kuri Kabocha” which translates from Japanese to  “Japanese sweet potato,” “chestnut” and “Japanese pumpkin” respectively. Ozawa said that the shop’s desserts share these traditionally Japanese flavors, aiming to encapsulate the season of autumn. 

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“With all of our restaurants, we really tried to bring the most authentic Japanese flavors possible,” Ozawa said. “We import chestnut paste from France … [and] we import Japanese flour.”

Ozawa said she also imports plates from Japan and has employed three Japanese pastry chefs. According to Ozawa, in Japan, French-style pastries are very popular as many Japanese dessert shops, including Ikuka, draw inspiration from them.

“They [Ikuka’s desserts] are made by our Japanese pastry chefs that I interviewed and hired and brought over here to work for me,” Ozawa said. “They’re all professionally trained in Japanese pastry and French pastry.”

Ozawa said Ikuka’s desserts are made in a Santa Clara off-site kitchen due to the stall’s limited space. Although Ozawa said she does not run the shop every day, her usual workday starts bright and early.

With all of our restaurants, we really tried to bring the most authentic Japanese flavors possible.

— Miyuki Ozawa, owner of Ikuka

“Morning to closing, I go to the kitchen, I’ll pick up the cakes and drive here [Ikuka] from Santa Clara,” Ozawa said. “Then, I’ll stock the fridge … and after that we open and try to sell and I’ll bring some to La Casa Mia as well.” 

Approaching Ikuka’s one-year anniversary, Ozawa reflects on the local community’s acceptance of Japanese flavors.

“I think people have been super open-minded and I’ve had so many people come and try the Azuki Croissant or the Mont Blanc,” Ozawa said. “They’ve never seen it before, never tasted it before, but they keep coming back for more.”

Ozawa said she hopes to continue sharing more food and flavors that she loves.

“Los Altos is my home,” Ozawa said. “It’s really just been an honor being able to fulfill my

dream and share this really meaningful part of my culture to my community and to be supported by my community as well.”