Written by Chiara Mischke
Ice Monster - Creamy Shaved Ice That Melts Like Snow In Your Mouth
Ice Monster is a shaved ice and tapioca tea shop that from Taiwan. Their first shop in Japan opened in Harajuku in 2015 and it is a popular choice for locals and visitors alike. Let's find out what makes it so special.
Even though Summer slowly comes to an end in Japan right now that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy shaved ice. Today we'll introduce you to Ice Monster, a tapioca tea and shaved ice cafe in Harajuku offering some of the biggest and fluffiest kakigori (shaved ice) in Japan.
Ice Monster - Born in Taiwan, Big in Japan
Ice Monster is originally from Taiwan. Their first shop in Japan opened in Harajuku in 2015. When it opened, more than 500 people lined up to try the famous Taiwanese treats. It was even labeled "the store where people stand in line most in 2015". For many months you could witness a long line in front of the store no matter what time of the day it was.
When you enter the shop and look up you will see that the ceiling is decorated with an abundance of wooden spheres resembling tapioca pearls. The shop itself has a very warm atmosphere and the whole interior is crafted from light colored wood.
Shaved Ice - Fluffy Like Snow, Creamy Like Gelato
If you have ever visited Japan in the summer you probably encountered shaved ice. In Japan, shaved ice is known as kakigori. It is easy to produce, refreshing and not too sweet. Nearly everyone in Japan has been eating it when growing up which is why it evokes childhood memories in many people.
Ice Monster offers five different kinds of shaved ice. They are said to have originally invented mango sensation shaved ice which is a fusion of two popular desserts in Taiwan, mango and shaved ice. Besides this signature mango flavor, they also offer strawberry, coffee flavor, and even tapioca milk tea flavor.
This time we ordered their Japan exclusive, almond sensation shaved ice. The shaved ice itself is almond flavored and it comes with a scoop of black sesame ice cream, lychee, a bowl of Japanese black sugar jelly as well as condensed milk on the side.
The first thing you will notice when your order is delivered is that their portions are huge. I am a big eater but I struggled to finish it. It can easily be shared between two people which makes it a good value for the money. However, please note that you can only eat the shaved ice inside the shop as it is served in big glass dishes and ice monster has the policy that every person sitting in the restaurant needs to order at least one item. Don't worry, you don't have to order a shaved ice for every person in your group. How about one of their delicious tapioca drinks to enjoy alongside your shaved ice instead?
When I took the first bite I was surprised how soft and snow-like this shaved ice was. Traditionally Japanese shaved ice has a crunchy, sometimes even slightly hard texture which is also part of its charm. This shaved ice, however, felt like picking up fresh, fluffy snow. The texture melted in my mouth and the creamy almond flavor resembled a high-quality gelato with a lightness to it from the shaved ice.
I did really appreciate that the toppings came separately. This way I could enjoy the shaved ice in many different ways and combinations. After trying it plain first, I tried some of the flavorful black sesame ice cream and then I tried them together. The smooth almond and the strong black sesame make for a great combination. Each combination will provide you with a different flavor experience. The jelly made it slightly smoky tasting, the lychee made it light and fresh.
Lastly, I poured some of the condensed milk over the shaved ice. It made it even creamier and sweeter. I also liked this combination together with the jelly as the smoky taste from the black sugar and the creamy sweetness from the condensed milk go together very well.
I highly encourage you to not poor everything together at once but rather tasting different variations to find your favorite.
TaiWan Drink - More Than Just Tapioca Tea
Ice Monster is also known for their original Taiwanese tapioca teas. But tapioca is just one of the topping choices. You can also try to top your tea with coconut jelly, almond jelly, lemon jelly or grass jelly.
We ordered their signature tekkanon oolong milk tea with tapioca. The tea flavor was strong and the tapioca pearls firm but chewy. The amount of tapioca, or any other topping you chose, is also very decent. If you don't deliberately chase every tapioca pearl in the drink, you shouldn't run out of them before your drink finishes.
To order you simply choose your favorite tea and add any topping you like. Every cup is prepared to order so you can be creative with your combinations. As seen above the menu is available in English so you can order worry-free.
Enjoy a Delicious Mountain of Fluffy Snow
If you are in the Harajuku area on a hot day, Ice Monster is a must try. The atmosphere of the shop is warm and inviting and it's a perfect place to drop in with friends or even on a date.
If you can not make it to Tokyo, they also have shops in Osaka, Nagoya and one to be opened soon in Okinawa (October 13th, 2018). Why not visit and see if you can conquer their delicious snow mountain?
In cooperation with Ice Monster