Food & Drink

Upscale summer dessert: The best gelato spots in Tokyo

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

Temperatures are starting to creep up, and it’s only going to get hotter and muggier as the summer drags on.

Thankfully, Tokyo offers no shortage of diversions to help people cool down, including on the dessert front. While swinging by the local Lawson to grab a Garigari-kun popsicle will do in a pinch, sometimes you crave a richer treat.

Japan’s capital abounds with top-notch gelato spots to satisfy any sweet tooth. Stores offer scoops made from local fruits and other foodstuffs, resulting in a (literally) cool snack that would make Italy proud. It’s tough to find particularly bad gelato in the city — though anything is possible! — but the best shops have truly made the dessert their own, or at least procure the best ingredients they can for new takes on the familiar.

So as summer sets in, here are some of the finest gelato stores around Tokyo worth braving the heat for.

At the top of the Tokyo gelato hierarchy is Gelateria Sincerita (Asagayakita 1-43-7, Suginami-ku; sincerita.jp/en) Opened in 2010 on a side street about five minutes away from Asagaya Station, this stylish space has some of the tastiest gelato anywhere in the metropolis. Its take on traditional flavors such as pistachio, milk and mel noix (milk with honey and pecans) captures the essence of the ingredients, while Japanese-inspired creations such as tofu and hōjicha (roasted green tea) flavors impress just as much. Those looking for something tropical should give Sincerita’s pineapple offering a go — and if you visit during inclement weather, prices go down, which is perfect for rainy season.

You don't have to pick just one: Gelateria Sincerita allows you to mix two flavors, such as mel noix (honey, milk and pecan) and cherry (left), or pineapple and cherry (right), in one cup. | PATRICK ST. MICHEL
You don’t have to pick just one: Gelateria Sincerita allows you to mix two flavors, such as mel noix (honey, milk and pecan) and cherry (left), or pineapple and cherry (right), in one cup. | PATRICK ST. MICHEL

Gelateria Sincerita’s selling point, though, is the range of limited-run flavors it introduces nearly every week. The folks at this spot tinker constantly to come up with clever concoctions. A few recent highlights include a red eye cocktail-flavored creation and a whole week devoted to different cherries from across the archipelago. An extra tip for those who need to impress family or co-workers over the next few months: You can order up to 18 flavors of Sincerita’s gelato online and get it shipped across the country, making this a great place for thoughtful gifts.

Making Italy proud: Gelateria Marghera brings the taste of Milanese gelato to central Tokyo. | COURTESY OF FFI INC.
Making Italy proud: Gelateria Marghera brings the taste of Milanese gelato to central Tokyo. | COURTESY OF FFI INC.

Those looking for a taste of Milan should travel to Gelateria Marghera (Azabu-Juban 2-5-1, Minato-ku; gelateriamarghera.jp) in Azabu-Juban. It’s the first international branch for the northern Italian-based shop, and opened in 2013. Immediately upon entering, you’ll be struck by the vibrant colors of the gelato. The bright fruit-based flavors such as strawberry and mango jump out, but the star is the nearly black fondente nero, a rich dark chocolate creation. While you’re at it, save a little room to sample a generously stuffed biscotti-gelato sandwich.

Green tea has become a popular pick for gelato, and none do it better than Suzukien (Asakusa 3-4-3, Taito-ku; tocha.co.jp) in Asakusa. They don’t settle for one matcha creation, but rather sell seven different variations on it, the richness of the flavor increasing with each level. Opt for No. 7 if you want an intense rush of matcha, but for something a little less extreme go for No. 4 or No. 5 (or keep it simple by choosing No. 1). Save some room to enjoy the actual drink, too, since Suzukien also has a wide variety of tea in store.

Speaking of venues serving good drinks, Luciano Gelato (Ginza 3-2-1, Chuo-ku; luciano-gelato.com) in Marronnier Gate Ginza 2 pairs gelato with herb tea. The store stocks a wide range of flavors, but the highlights are the sweeter varieties such as tiramisu and rum raisin. Pair your selection with one of its hot teas, which deliver great taste even in the sweltering summer weather, for a winning combo.

For another solid pairing, try Kanto-area chain Brigela (various locations; brigela.com), which pairs tasty gelato with brioche rolls. Enjoy offerings such as ramune soda or one of their six rotating seasonal fruit flavors stuffed inside freshly baked bread.

Picture perfect: Abbot Kinney crafts artistic-looking desserts that include various toppings alongside its array of gelato flavors. | COURTESY OF ABBOT KINNEY
Picture perfect: Abbot Kinney crafts artistic-looking desserts that include various toppings alongside its array of gelato flavors. | COURTESY OF ABBOT KINNEY

Head to Hatagaya if you are craving an artisanal take on the dessert. Abbot Kinney (Hatagaya 2-5-3, Shibuya-ku; abbot-kinney-gelato.jp) creates highly photogenic plates that pair gelato with various fruits and other edible flourishes. Highlights of its “artisan gelato menu” include raspberry and cream and sesame-banana.

For those looking for vegan-friendly gelato, Premarche Gelateria (Kamimeguro 2-9-36, Meguro-ku; gelato.organic) has you covered. This Nakameguro spot sells over 40 varieties, a large chunk of them made without milk or honey. This gelato is on the healthier side and certainly doesn’t skimp on taste.

Finally, Woodayice (Sangenjaya 2-17-12, Setagaya-ku; woodayice.com) in Sangenjaya not only offers up tasty gelato, but does so in one of the more whimsical settings you’ll find in Tokyo. The shop features a wide variety of wooden toys scattered about, and inquisitive kids (or adults, for that matter) can play with them while enjoying one of the 12 flavors on sale. Nothing fancy on that front, but Woodayice delivers satisfying versions of the familiar; the premium pistachio is the highlight — straight to the point, but with plenty of charm to spare.

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