The heat wave may be past its punishing peak, but there are still lots of ice-cream days left this late summer — and plenty of premium outlets to discover in Tokyo.
When it comes to multi-flavored cups and sugar cones, the arrival of Ben & Jerry’s in Omotesando raised the ante and created welcome competition in the middle ground between Baskin-Robbins and Grom. At the other end of the spectrum is the simpler pleasure of soft-serve ice cream — better known in Japanese simply as “soft cream.”
One of the tastiest in the city is dispensed by Nakahora Bokujo Milk Cafe, on the Nogizaka edge of Roppongi. Just a one-minute walk from the Tokyo Midtown complex, it’s an unprepossessing place tucked away out of sight down a small side street. But its soft cream is some of the best in town.
There’s only one flavor but it’s a classic. That’s thanks to the quality of the key ingredient: the milk. At Nakahora Bokujo (Farm) in rural Iwate Prefecture, the cows are left to graze in the wild on upland pastures that are never sprayed or stressful, and their milk has a rounded natural sweetness that shines through in the soft cream they make from it. No further flavoring required.
Servings are ¥380 for a small, ¥680 for a large and ¥500 for affogato, with rich espresso coffee tipped over the top. A coffee float is ¥450. The milk is also available to buy on its own (¥300/180 g; ¥945/720 g).
Another small independent ice-cream maker that stands behind the quality of the milk it uses, shunning extra flavors or other additives, is Shiroichi. It is far from a household name but its product is outstanding — literally.
The ice spirals up high, a good 10 cm above the level of the cone, forming a graceful curve at the tip. It seems to defy the laws of ice-cream physics. So how is it done? Although it looks like other soft cream, in fact it is a hard, frozen ice milk. As with any ice cream, though, you have to lick fast, especially in the heat of summer.
Shiroichi’s outlet in Shibuya is at the park end of Koen-dori, almost opposite the CC Lemon Hall. It’s so small it’s easy to miss, though there is often a line that straggles out of the door.
Nakahora Bokujo Milk Cafe: 7-4-14 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo; (050) 2018-0111; www.nakahora-bokujou.jp. Nakahora Farm also has a small outlet in 246 Common, the new outdoor food stall market near the Omotesando Crossing: 3-13 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5459-3362; www.246common.jp. Shiroichi: 1-7-7 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. (03) 3461-5353; www.shiroichi.com.