The capricious tastes of consumers have seen food fads come and go. Remember the short-lived nata de coco boom or Cinnabon craze of last year? Now depachika are the centers of gourmet attention, selling a whole range of foods, among them some old favorites, but also many new items aiming to become the next big thing.
These are the bestselling showcase products at the food sections of major department stores in Tokyo:
* Imo-kintsuba from Mangando at Daimaru (100 yen a piece): Between 5,000 and 6,000 pieces of this sweet potato-based wagashi (Japanese-style confection) are sold daily, and you can buy them when they’re freshly made. Customers wait in a long queue while watching them being prepared. Their popularity lies in the “unusual taste and the sugary scent of sweet potato,” says a spokesman.
* Kuromame dorayaki from Kamakura Goro at Daimaru (200 yen a piece): Made from baked dough stuffed with black soybean jam, this wagashi is a Daimaru special. Its creation was prompted by the rise in popularity of black soybeans among the health-conscious.
* Harmelen from Sieges Kranz at Shinjuku Keio (1,000 yen): This sponge cake filled with custard and pear or marron was first introduced at a cake shop based in Umegaoka, Setagaya Ward. At Keio, the baking capacity is limited to 70 cakes daily. Keio spokeswoman Sachiko Shindo says the cake “meets customers’ desire for something simple, tasty and reasonably priced.” One cake is big enough for eight servings.
* Gyoza and shumai from Kobe Tenshin Pao Pao at Shinjuku Keio (60 yen and 65 yen each, respectively): Two kinds of gyoza (with or without garlic) and three to four different kinds of shumai (Chinese dumplings filled with pork, shrimp and scallops) can be purchased while they’re still steaming hot. Up to 6,000 sold daily.
* Mont-Blanc from Salon de The Angelina at Shinjuku Takashimaya (full-size, 750 yen; demi-size, 450 yen; box of eight petit-size portions, 1,000 yen): This sweet meringue covered in vanilla-flavored marron paste and cream has long been popular at this cake shop (originally from Paris).
* Gyoza from Tenten at Shinjuku Isetan (1,200 yen for 30 pieces): This famous shop makes bite-size, uncooked, gourmet-style gyoza that can be served either boiled or fried. Tenten started in Osaka’s Kita-Shinchi district and also has a branch in Azabu-Juban.
* Nadaman products from Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi (200 yen and up): From a highly ranked ryotei (Japanese restaurant) based in Tokyo, these products range from a variety of sozai (side dishes) — cooked vegetables, tofu, croquette — to bento in colorful, stylish packaging.
* Kiyomizu bento from Minokichi at Ueno Matsuzakaya (1,300 yen): The contents of the bento sold at this outlet of the famous Kyoto ryotei change according to the season or month. The current spring package features rice with takenoko (bamboo shoots).
* Cutlets from Meat Delica at Shinjuku Mitsukoshi (100 yen each): Though the shop sells a variety of other products, its popularity is attributed to its crunchy cutlets of minced meat or pork. Only 150 cutlets are sold each day, and these are available only at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., so expect to wait in line.
* Assorted breads by Don Meister at Ikebukuro Tobu (average 350 yen; 175 yen for half-loaves): All the breads at Don Meister are exclusive to the store. The most popular items — toastbrot, a French bread, and roggenbrot, a rye variety — are baked on the site.
* Mille-feuille aux fraises and cream tarts from Antenor at Ginza Mitsukoshi (1,000 yen each): The mille-feuille aux fraises pies sell out immediately after being put on the shelves at 5 p.m. Daily sales are limited to 20. The pear-filled cream tarts are limited to 30 daily and are put out at 3 p.m.