5 sweet spots: The best desserts in Tokyo

5 sweet spots: The best desserts in Tokyo

... from paper thin crepes to an award-winning white Mont Blanc to man-mountain ice-cream sundaes
desserts tgi friday tokyo
Sweets Paradise is a popular Shibuya haunt for sugar-happy teens.

Japan may not traditionally be a cake-and-ice cream kind of country, but it sure has taken Western confections to heart.

Generally less sweet and more balanced than those you’d find overseas, dessert in Tokyo isn’t just for the kids.

Here are five of our favorite sweet spots.

1. The reading spot: Deli & Baking, Co

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Located in bohemian youth district Shimokitazawa, Deli & Baking, Co is a comfortable New York-style cafe with one of Tokyo’s lengthiest dessert and snack menus. Its staggering range of pancakes, muffins, scones and cakes start from ¥450.

Our fave is the firm, creamy caramel banana cake, with layers of stiff cream, rare cheese and chocolate sponge, filled with banana slices, drizzled with subtle caramel sauce and rooted on a chocolate crumb base.

The large, bright cafe and its front and back porches boast an unhurried atmosphere that makes it easy to linger. Take a good book or a homework assignment -- and a sweet tooth.

1F, 2-29-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku; tel. +81 (0) 3 5453 1313. Open daily 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Station: Shimokitazawa.

2. The day trip: Sweets Forest

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Jiyugaoka is renowned for its concentration of sweets shops, but most thrilling of all is Sweets Forest -- a complex decorated with pink trees and fairy lights, it houses eight shops and three seating areas.

Specialist stores offer cakes, crepes, ice cream, waffles, crème brûlée and soufflé, many with unusual designs. For example, the prize-winning white Mont Blanc at Patisserie Enfants is shaped like a chestnut Mont Blanc but is actually a cheesecake made with Hokkaido milk.

2F, 2-25-7 Midorigaoka, Meguro-ku; +81 (0) 3 5731 6600. Open daily 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Station: Jiyugaoka. www.sweets-forest.com

3. The value proposition: Sweets Paradise

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The Sweets Paradise chain may not offer the best-quality cakes in Tokyo, but it more than makes up for that in value. Most of its 19 Tokyo branches (Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ueno, Ikebukuro and so on) offer an all-you-can-eat deal: ¥1,480 for adults or ¥840 for kids bags you a reckless 90-minute sugar spree.

The selection includes dozens of cakes, ice cream cones, a chocolate fountain and Japanese delicacies such as sweet mochi, while each store looks like it was decorated by a toddler on a sugar rush.

The clientele is largely made up of young women catching up on the latest gossip, but families (and boys) are also welcome.

Various locations; www.sweets-paradise.com

4. The date spot: Paper Moon

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Twinned with a branch in New York (Lady M Confections) but originating in Tokyo, Paper Moon is a swanky boutique cafe in Hiroo where cakes take pride of place; it’s a fine place to eat sweets with your sweetie.

Its homemade treats include several different Mille Crepes (20 paper-thin crepes bound with creamy custard), two cheesecakes and a range of chocolate, fruit and maple cakes. There’s a small but tasty selection of savories too: lasagna, quiche, ratatouille and so on.

The chic eatery boasts two front patios, while its deep interior is decked out with chandeliers, sofas and plush seats (some of which carry a surplus charge) for an exclusive vibe – indeed, the staff confide that many Japanese celebrities visit incognito for their confectionery fix.

1F, 4-12-26 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku; +81 (0) 3 3448 1610. Open Sun-Thurs 10 a.m. - 2 a.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m. - 3 a.m. Station: Hiroo. www.papermoon.cc

5. The granddaddy: TGI Friday's

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For the ultimate in gluttony, you can't beat a rich American-style sundae. These are somewhat rare in Japan, though many U.S. theme diners offer a fairly authentic experience.

But the daddy of them all is American chain TGI Friday’s. Its Friday’s Sundae boasts two huge scoops of smooth vanilla ice cream topped (and bottomed) with thick, gooey hot fudge and caramel sauces, a generous mount of stiff whipped cream, a sprinkling of nuts and – what else? – a cherry on top.

At ¥780, it's big enough to share – but that doesn't mean you actually have to. For extra indulgence, add a creamy milkshake (¥640), and keep your dentist on speed dial.

Various locations; www.tgifridays.co.jp