Japanese cream puffs. They taste like heaven, cherub’s kisses, and sweet dreams come true. Okay, I may have exaggerated a little, but that’s the feeling I get whenever I bite into one of ‘em pastries: soft, puffy shell with rich cream, fresh custard and I think I just drooled over my keyboard typing that last sentence.
And then, there’s Kitakaro Cafe’s cream puffs.
Opened in 1991, this quaint Japanese pâtisserie is housed in a converted stone building, with little more than a signboard and a couple of banners marking its presence. That’s the beauty of classic Japanese brands like these – you don’t need loud, in-your-face advertising with overly enthusiastic staff hawking your wares, just a widespread reputation of how good your goods are. 😉
We chanced upon Kitakaro Cafe and its legendary cream puffs during our planning for the trip, and, being avid lovers of pastries, there was no way we were missing out.
So are its cream puffs really worth the trouble? The answer is: yes!
Drawn by the alluring scent of baked goods, and a soothing jingle that played throughout the shop, we made a beeline for the counter, where rows of fresh cream puffs were displayed and ready for sale.
The Fushigi (hard shell with custard filling) and Dome (choux pastry with a mix of custard and fresh cream) go for ¥165 each, with Pisucotto priced at ¥185. If you have the appetite for it (or haven’t had lunch yet), Kitakaro Cafe also sells Cream Puff or Baumkuchen Sets which come with an additional beverage and soft serve for ¥515.
We each bought a Kita no Yume Dome, which the menu proudly tagged as a must-try, and headed to a shaded, outdoor seating area with the anticipation of rich, creamy goodness heavy upon us.
To say that Kitakaro Cafe’s jumbo cream puff is ten times as delicious as Beard Papa’s is a mere understatement; to even compare the two is blasphemous. This one’s clearly in a league of its own: the outer shell glistened in the sun, and yielded with a slight crunch. It wasn’t soggy at all given I spent a good five minutes snapping pics of it (blogging and social media hazards).
In a single bite, I could taste all three layers of crisp choux pastry, light, fluffy cream and lusciously rich custard cream. It was rich enough to keep my tastebuds happy, yet not overly dense.
The whole puff was just so moist and soft, yet crisp and light at the same time that I had to take a couple more bites to realize I wasn’t dreaming. Make no mistake, this is the cream puff to die for.
Like many other Japanese confectionaries, Kitakaro’s cream puffs are made fresh with minimal preservatives. So if you want to cart home a boxful of these creamy darlings, be sure to head to Otaru on the last day so you can enjoy it in all its freshness.
Otherwise, there’s a smaller store back at ESTA Food Hall in Sapporo. You’ll have to purchase a cold pack for ¥72 if you intend to carry them around for more then 2 hours, but honestly, who can wait that long?? 😛
Not to be missed if another signature item, the Baumkuchen 妖精の森 which is essentially a layer cake with a hole in it. Buttery and rich, the cake had a pleasant maple and honey taste to it which remained intense even though we had it for breakfast over a couple of days. I know, I know, cake for breakfast – but hey, we’re on holiday, so why the hell not? 😛
Kitakaro stores may be found at major department stores and various rest stops across Hokkaido, but for a true taste experience, I highly recommend Kitakaro Cafe on Sakaimachi Street as a must-see if you’re swinging by Otaru! 😉
Address: ７−２２ Sakaimachi, Otaru, Hokkaido Prefecture
Opening Hours: 9am – 6.30pm daily (some older blog entries have pegged the closing time at 4.30pm; to be safe, try to go earlier so you can grab the goodies you want!)
Contact: +81 0134-31-3464
(accurate as of Aug 2014)