Food & Drink

Doing doughnuts right in Tokyo: An indulgence for all occasions

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

Doughnuts are one of the trickier sweets to get a handle on in Japan.

While chains such as Mister Donut stand tall and foreign imports like Krispy Kreme have enjoyed some time in the spotlight, the circular snack has proven quite tough for just any restaurant to try out. Even Seven-Eleven Japan, when it tried to pair its successful coffee with doughnuts a couple years back, flopped.

Accordingly, all of the places in Tokyo that do serve doughnuts focus on making the finest version they can. Some keep it simple, with offerings that emphasize basic flavors and freshness. Others get fancy, creating treats with Instagram in mind and experimenting with flavors. Some even manage to make fried dough healthier — well, a little bit, at least.

A good doughnut maker keeps customers surprised by the types of circular treat it has. Hocus Pocus (Hirakawacho 2-5-3, Chiyoda-ku; hocuspocus.jp) in the Nagatacho area does variety better than other establishments in the city. Heralding itself as a “doughnuts laboratory,” experimentation is key to what it does at this spacious store. The people making the doughnuts don’t follow any one method of cooking them, and the lineup of items on sale changes practically everyday.

Fiddle-faddling with recipes doesn’t mean much if the end result fails to taste good. Hocus Pocus’ best offerings are fruit-flavored, with the blueberry and citrus creations among the most satisfying desserts you are bound to find in Tokyo (especially when topped with crushed nuts). Still, you can’t go wrong with its chocolate doughnuts, either. Pair them with a cup of coffee from Little Nap Coffee Roasters, available in-store, and you’ve got yourself a great afternoon pick-me-up snack.

Stack 'em: Dumbo Doughnuts and Coffee's salted chocolate caramel doughnut fits perfectly on top of its pastel-pink coffee cups. | COURTESY OF INCEPTION INC.
Stack ’em: Dumbo Doughnuts and Coffee’s salted chocolate caramel doughnut fits perfectly on top of its pastel-pink coffee cups. | COURTESY OF INCEPTION INC.

Doughnuts and coffee are a classic pairing, and the Harajuku collaboration between Higuma Doughnuts and Coffee Wrights (Jingumae 4-9-13, Shibuya-ku; higuma.co) offers excellent examples of both.

On the doughnut side, Higuma has relatively simple but crave-eliminating flavors such as sugar and kinako (roasted soybean flour), alongside sweeter creations such as the rich Chocolate Dippin’ and Honey Mascarpone. Keep an eye out for seasonal creations — currently a nice, tart Summer Orange doughnut. You can also visit Higuma’s solo shop in Meguro if you want to forego the caffeine (Takaban 2-8-21, Meguro-ku).

Simplicity wins over at the tiny but memorable Haritts (Uehara 1-34-2, Shibuya-ku; haritts.com/home) Tucked away in a corner of Yoyogi-Uehara, it doesn’t pump out a ton of doughnuts — when it sells out for the day, it’s done.

Doughnut presentation here is simple, but flavors such as cream cheese, green tea and pumpkin truly deliver, making an early morning trip to this cozy shop more than worth it.

Guilt-free snacking: Ikkyu Donatsu makes its doughnuts with soy for a slightly healthier treat. | PATRICK ST. MICHEL
Guilt-free snacking: Ikkyu Donatsu makes its doughnuts with soy for a slightly healthier treat. | PATRICK ST. MICHEL

Doughnuts should never really be considered a healthy treat, even when stores prepare them in slightly more health conscious ways. Still, if you want a little indulgence that won’t leave you feeling too much dietary shame, head over to Ogikubo for a soy doughnut from Ikkyu Donatsu (Kamiogi 1-6-4, Suginami-ku; ikkyudonut.com). These doughnuts may be made from soy, but when fresh out of the fryer they taste just as delicious as any “normal” doughnut.

If you find yourself in Meguro, swing by one of the six Hara Donuts branches in Tokyo (Shimomeguro 5-2-16, Meguro-ku; haradonuts.jp) for a wider selection of soy-based doughnuts, including some lovely limited-time confections.

Who wants to be healthy at every moment, though? These are doughnuts, after all, so for those at peace with the carbs and sugar, hit up Dumbo Doughnuts and Coffee (Azabujuban 2-17-6, Minato-ku; dumbodc.com). It sells big, fluffy New York-style doughnuts that aren’t afraid to tip the calorie count. Highlights include lemon poppy seed, passion fruit and the particularly luxurious salted chocolate caramel.

Dumbo’s sweets, with their vibrant coats of frosting, have also become a staple on many folks’ Instagram feeds. If you want to wow your friends, buy a coffee and put the donut on top of the cup — It’s a social media-centric shot bound to get some likes.

So cute, you could just eat them up: Two dog-shaped sweets from Floresta Nature Doughnuts in caffe latte-chocolate (left) and black sesame-chocolate flavors.
So cute, you could just eat them up: Two dog-shaped sweets from Floresta Nature Doughnuts in caffe latte-chocolate (left) and black sesame-chocolate flavors.

Another photogenic option is a doughnut from Floresta Nature Doughnuts (various locations; nature-doughnuts.jp). This chain of stores scattered about the capital and beyond does sell your classic sugar or chocolate doughnut, but it has gained attention over the years for doughnuts iced to resemble an assortment of woodland creatures and other cute animals.

They don’t just look adorable, but also taste delicious, highlighted by flavors such as milk, coconut-chocolate and salted caramel. It’s also worth giving Floresta’s natural ice cream and, until Aug. 31, the kakigōri shaved ice a try.

Whatever you choose, Floresta is a great example of a nationwide chain going the extra step to give an already quality product that special touch.