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Matcha, Strawberries, and More: Tokyo’s Top 5 Must-Try Sweets Spots of 2018!

Matcha, Strawberries, and More: Tokyo’s Top 5 Must-Try Sweets Spots of 2018!

Update: 17 August 2018

Japan is every sweets lover’s paradise! The country boasts many amazing and unique takes on classic Western desserts, with shortcake and Mont Blanc only two iconic examples. Deliciously altered to match a Japanese palate, these familiar yet different sweets aren’t only conquering the hearts of locals but more and more visitors from all around the world open their eyes to the sweet, sweet paradise that Japan can be – if you know where to go.

We’ve skimmed Tokyo for its very best sweets spots and found five remarkable stores that’ll take you to dessert heaven. From Japan’s popular pancakes to ridiculously beautiful matcha parfaits that look like Japanese rock gardens, take your taste buds on a wonderful adventure that blends modern creativity with traditional aesthetics!

Ki to Mizu to Tsuchi to: Crème Brûlée Pancakes Bring a “Crunch!” to Your Life

Ki to Mizu to Tsuchi to: Crème Brûlée Pancakes Bring a “Crunch!” to Your Life

Tokyo has a reputation for being fancy, so dining at a fancy café or restaurant is an inherent part of the full Tokyo experience. Especially Harajuku and Omotesando are famous hot spots for this, with numerous stunning cafés dotting the streets. It’s also somewhat of the birthplace of some of the most stylish sweets and the areas that have made Japan’s fluffy pancakes so famous. Today, we’re visiting a place called Ki to Mizu to Tsuchi to, “tree and water and soil and.” It’s been a hot topic on Japanese social media for creating a new kind of pancake sensation.

▲ Crème Brûlée Pancake, 1,058 yen (tax included)

This sensation is the Crème Brûlée Pancake. As the name suggests, the pancake’s surface is caramelized by sprinkling sugar right on it and burning it. It’s amazingly crispy while the fluffy-like-a-cloud pancake underneath tickles your tongue with its wonderful mellowness. The stark contrast between these two textures is exactly what will make you fall in love with this dessert.

While the core of the pancake is only mildly sweet, plenty of rich custard cream is sandwiched in between. The dessert is created to go perfectly with whipped cream, so it is served chilled. Red berry sauce doesn’t only add a splash of color to the plate but also enhances it with freshness and subtle sourness.

▲ Matcha Pancakes, 1,058 yen (tax included)

Another recommendation is the Japanese-style Matcha Pancakes. The dough is infused with domestically produced green tea powder, while the homemade sauce uses sweet red beans from Hokkaido. A serving of vanilla ice cream further perfects this tasty take on Japanese tradition. The sweetness is authentically paired with a hint of bitterness - this is a must-order dessert for every green tea lover.

You’ll find Ki to Mizu to Tsuchi just a 5-minute walk away from Omotesando Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. The store is committed to serving fresh fruits from Wakayama Prefecture, the owner’s home, so there’s often only a limited quantity available. The café announces its menu situation on social media, so make sure to check before you go.

  • Ki to Mizu to Tsuchi to
    木と水と土と
    • Address 4-13-4 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001
    • Nearest Station Meiji-jingumae Station, 7 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 03-3475-0555

    Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    Closed: always open
    Credit Card: OK
    Reservation: OK
    English menu: available

Dominique Ansel Bakery at Omotesando: Try the World-Famous Cronut

Dominique Ansel Bakery at Omotesando: Try the World-Famous Cronut

Dominique Ansel and his ridiculously famous bakery from New York City debuted in Japan in June 2015, opening their very first shop in Tokyo. Just a 5-minute walk away from Omotesando Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, this fancy café tickles your taste buds with some of the most creative sweets you’ve ever seen. For his amazing hybrid sweets, Dominique Ansel was crowned one of the top 10 pastry chefs in the U.S.

▲ Kumquat Wasanbon Cronut, 648 yen (tax included; limited flavor of January 2018)

The one hybrid sweet that makes Dominique Ansel a real pastry chef celebrity is his Cronut, a wonderful marriage between layered, crispy croissant dough and the fluffy, round shape of a donut. This treat is even trademarked now. Every month, the Cronut flavors change and when we visited, we got to enjoy the Kumquat Wasanbon Cronut. Wasanbon is a fine-grained Japanese sugar traditionally used for Japanese sweets and the combination with the fruity kumquat glaze is positively addictive. The best thing about the Cronut, however, is inside.

Just like a croissant, the Cronut’s inside is layered and infused with a ganache of kumquat jam and high-grade wasanbon. It’s a peculiar fusion of crunchy and fluffy, creating a whole new sensation that will definitely become one of your new favorite sweets!

As already mentioned, the Cronut has a different flavor every month and never features the same flavor twice, so repeat visits are definitely recommended! Check the official homepage or social network to check the current Cronut flavor!

▲ DKA, 594 yen (tax included)

Here’s another one of Dominique Ansel’s famous creations: the DKA, or “Dominique’s Kouign Amann,” a Breton specialty with caramel crust and layers on the inside. The buttery flavor melts right on your tongue as you work your way through the fluffy layers!

▲ Blooming Hot Chocolate, 864 yen (tax included)

Another Dominique Ansel that figuratively lit Japanese social media on fire is the Blooming Hot Chocolate. It’s a marshmallow flower held together with a thin ring of chocolate. Once dropped into the cup full of mellow, hot chocolate, that ring melts and the flower opens up as if it was blooming. The one you see in the image above mimics the sunflower and boasts an orange flavor, while the other two available flowers are white and white & lavender.

▲ Frozen S’more, 832 yen (tax included)

If you’re craving something cold, order the Frozen S’more. Vanilla ice cream is covered with chocolate flakes, before being coated in a honey marshmallow. The skewer is torched just as you order, served as fresh as it gets!

While the combination of ice cream and marshmallow sounds incredibly sweet, you’ll be surprised by the subtleness of flavors. The gentle bitterness of the caramel balance the super-sweet ice cream just perfectly. The crispy marshmallow on the outside is in stark contrast with the mellow ice cream core, and the branch that acts as a skewer was smoked with apple chips for just an extra note of aroma – this is one amazing creation.

The second floor of Dominique Ansel Bakery offers plenty of space to sit down and relax with your creative dessert. The staff’s recommendation is to not visit just as the place opens to avoid congestion but instead go sometime during the later hours of the morning. Grab a few friends and treat yourself to some proper pastry novelties!

  • DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY JAPAN at OMOTESANDO
    ドミニクアンセルベーカリー オモテサンドウ
    • Address 5-7-14 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001
    • Nearest Station Omotesando Station, 5 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 03-3486-1329

    Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
    Closed: always open
    Credit Card: OK
    Reservation: not available

PRESS BUTTER SAND: How Can a Cookie Sandwich be This Good?

PRESS BUTTER SAND: How Can a Cookie Sandwich be This Good?

Next stop is Tokyo Station, often called the “gateway to Tokyo.” In our case, it might as well be the gateway to cookie heaven as we’re visiting a shop specializing in butter sand. No, it’s not sand-infused butter but a Japanese-created English term referring to “buttercream sandwich cookies.” Welcome to PRESS BUTTER SAND!

▲ “Butter Sand,” box of 10 for 1,700 yen (tax included)

The shop took one year to develop their perfect buttercream sandwich cookies. Said cookies are baked with the shop’s own unique technique before being filled with caramel-infused buttercream, using fresh butter from Hokkaido. The crunch of the cookie and the mellowness of the cream are a match made in heaven.

▲ A simple yet stylish package design makes for an excellent gift.

Next to beautifully packaged gift boxes, PRESS BUTTER SAND also sells their freshly baked cookie sandwiches right at the shop for a mere 170 yen per piece (tax included). We highly recommend grabbing a bite or a box to enjoy in the train!

  • PRESS BUTTER SAND
    プレスバターサンド
    • Address 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0005
    • Nearest Station inside Tokyo Station
    • Phone Number 03-4362-4147

    Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
    Closed: always open
    Credit Card: OK
    English menu: available

Fruit Parlor Kajitsuen: Savor the 80% Strawberry Zuccotto!

Fruit Parlor Kajitsuen: Savor the 80% Strawberry Zuccotto!

Fancy some fruits? In that case, the place to go is Fruit Parlor Kajitsuen, also located in Tokyo Station. It’s one of Tokyo’s most famous cafés, earning its reputation to the remarkable freshness and high quality of the fruits on the menu. You’ll find Kajitsuen in Tokyo station’s Kitchen Street, near the Yaesu North exit.

▲ Amaō Strawberry Zuccotto, 1,404 yen (tax included)

There are plenty of amazing desserts on the menu, but the one we’d like to recommend today is the Amaō Strawberry Zuccotto. “Zuccotto” is an Italian chilled dessert cake and Kajitsuen uses a strawberry variety from Fukuoka Prefecture to make it one of the most amazing fruit cakes imaginable. The berries are big, plump, and wonderfully sweet, making up a full 80% of the cake! The rest is mellow whipped cream, in the spirit of strawberry shortcake.

The cake is rather voluminous but because it is mostly made out of fruit, it’s not heavy at all. The gentle sourness of the berries and the fresh coolness of the whipped cream make every single bite pure bliss. Don’t be intimidated by the size of this, it’s a portion for one person that’ll be gone quicker than you like!

▲ Amaō Strawberry Tarte, 2,484 yen (tax included)

Another popular dessert on Kajitsuen’s menu is the Amaō Strawberry Tarte – it looks like a mountain of strawberries! The foundation is a crispy, flavorful dough, topped with whipped cream and custard. The highlight is the strawberries, though! A full pack of 16 Amaō strawberries goes onto this tarte, each of them plump and sweet. With a diameter of 12cm, this is a rather voluminous dish and is best shared with one or two dear friends.

The strawberries used for the two desserts we showcased above are carefully chosen by the owners of Kajitsuen themselves, buying only the ripest fruits at the market. All Amaō are from domestic production and you can be sure that the ones on your dessert are the best in town.

It’s worth mentioning that the Amaō strawberries are only offered between mid-November and mid-April when they’re in season. The desserts themselves are offered year-round, of course, but they’ll be topped with other strawberry varieties during the summer months.

If it’s fresh, seasonal fruits of an amazing quality that you’re after, you have to make your way to Kajitsuen Fruit Parlor. Next to strawberries, another seasonal highlight is the Japanese Shine Muscat grape variety, so no matter when you go, there’s a real fresh fruit paradise awaiting you!

  • Fruit Parlor Kajitsuen
    果実園 東京店
    • Address 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0005
    • Nearest Station Kitchen Street, Yaesu North Exit within Tokyo Station
    • Phone Number 03-5220-4567

    Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
    Closed: always open
    Credit Card: OK
    Reservation: OK
    English menu: available

Salon Ginza Sabou: Stunningly Beautiful Green Tea Desserts

Salon Ginza Sabou: Stunningly Beautiful Green Tea Desserts

We’ve talked about pancakes and cookies, but now it’s time to savor something authentically Japanese. Let’s head over to Tokyu Plaza Ginza, a 1-minute walk away from Ginza Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. There, we’ll try a dessert that looks like a rock garden at Salon Ginza Sabou.

▲ Sabou Parfait – Japanese Garden, 1,188 yen (tax included)

Just look at it – a proper work of art! It’s called Sabou Parfait – Japanese Garden and everyone who’s just remotely active on Japanese social media will have seen this trendy dessert before. Served in a traditional wooden box, the plate on top is made out of white chocolate and garnished with matcha powder shaped in the characteristic lines of a Japanese rock garden. It’s almost too pretty to eat.

Almost. Pick up the spoon and gently crack the chocolate on top. Below, there’s rich green tea is cream with matcha from Fukuoka Prefecture. It’s not just ice cream, however. This stunning parfait also features matcha-infused mascarpone, sweetened chestnut, agar-agar, and warabimochi (traditional bracken-starch dumpling). The many textures and flavors create a heavenly harmony and the entire thing can easily be called a “green tea treasure chest.”

With only 40 seats the café isn’t too large, but weekday evenings are usually a pretty safe bet. A lot of Salon Ginza Sabou’s guests seem to specifically go to the store because they spotted the famous parfait on social media and want to try it themselves. And certainly, it’s a great and very Japanese experience, as it unites various traditional ingredients in the most beautiful way.

  • SALON GINZA SABOU
    サロン ギンザ サボウ
    • Address 5-2-1 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061
    • Nearest Station Ginza Station, 1 minute on foot
    • Phone Number 03-6264-5320

    Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
    Closed: same as Tokyu Plaza
    Credit Card: OK
    Reservation: not accepted
    English menu: partly available

Tokyo’s Sweets: Photogenic and Heavenly Delicious!

Tokyo’s Sweets: Photogenic and Heavenly Delicious!

After seeing our list of recommended cafés and their sweets, you won’t be surprised to hear that photogenic desserts are a dominant topic on Japan’s social media. Tastiness is a given at this point, so pastry makers et cetera try to outdo one another with beautiful shapes, colors, and novelty ideas.

All five introduced spots boast long queues at peak times, speaking for just how good and photogenic their menus are. Of course, pictures of the desserts are then shared all over the internet, making the queues even longer! Thankfully, if you’re a tourist, it won’t be too hard to work around those peak times and savor Tokyo’s celebrity sweets for yourself! And remember: as you walk down the streets of the metropolis, keep your eye open for cafés – there are hidden dessert gems all over the city!

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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