Here’s the lowdown on sugary confections in Japan: they are (predominantly) bland and expensive. Unlike in the west where snacks, desserts and even drinks taste as though someone is trying to inject liquid cane sugar directly into your bloodstream, the Japanese use sweeteners sparingly for a more delicate flavor. This is both a positive and a negative; while I appreciate not having my teeth ache with every bite, I’m disappointed that if I ordered two small slices of cake, one vanilla and one chocolate, they would taste exactly the same. Moreover, each small piece would set me back about $5. Granted, the cost is based partly on the fact that there is an artistry and sophistication of presentation that one doesn’t typically see outside of a French patisserie. However, I don’t need to be awed by the beauty of something that I’m probably going to demolish in a matter of minutes (assuming that it is tasty).
Every once in a while, though, you come across something outside the box of Japan’s ubiquitous flavorings. (For the record, they are: green tea, sweet red bean, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and chestnut. Sometimes sweet potato or even pumpkin.) Tokyo’s 100% Chocolate Cafe seems to have found the sweet spot in pairing Japanese sensibilities with adventurous flavors. Owned and operated by the Meiji Corporation (which makes a number of products, including several varieties of chocolate and candy), they boast 56 different flavors of chocolate, using cacao from all over the world. Some of the flavors have a Japanese spin, like kinako (toasted soybean flour, a nutty taste) or yes, green tea. They also offer zanier options like chili, lemon salt, jasmine, etc.
56 flavors of goodness
The cafe also provides a menu of cakes, parfaits, and chocolate drinks. I had an incredibly airy chiffon cake (what some would call “angel food cake”) covered in a chocolate and almond concoction that I can’t quite name. ”Concoction” makes it sound off-putting, but actually it was delicious. Very smooth, light, and not too rich, but with as intense a flavor as Nutella, with a thinner consistency.
I’ll be back in Tokyo in May, and I’ll be waiting outside when the cafe opens, ready for my next fix.
Tokyo locations for 100% Chocolate Cafe:
Sumida-ku, Tokyo 1-1-2 push
Tokyo Sky Tree Town Solamachi 4F
Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 2-4-16
Meiji Kyobashi Building 1F