(in which I eat foods as big as my face)
Dan's main priority in Japan may have been eating as much raw fish as possible but I had a different goal, eat as much crazy flavored soft serve as possible. Specifically, eat as many crazy flavors as possible on one cone.
For those unaware, I have a (currently neglected but soon to get A LOT of posts) side project called The Soft Serve Diaries that started as a tongue-in-cheek collection of serious reviews of every Mister Softee (or knock off Mister Softee) rainbow sprinkled, swirl cone I ate. Even though it started as a joke, I found that I had a lot of fun applying serious metrics to not serious food and as we traveled the world, my need to compare different country's soft serves became something of an obsession. I knew from instagram and tumblr that Japan was going to be prime soft serve eating country and as I searched for the absolute must-haves, one image kept reappearing over and over: the Tokudai Cone at Daily Chiko in the basement of Nakano Broadway. Eight layers of seasonally changing ingredients creating a cone taller than your face. I had to have it.
Thankfully, even though Dan has very little interest in eating soft serve himself, he supports my dreams of eating and reviewing soft serve like it's my job* and agreed to adventure to Nakano Broadway where I had read the soft serve was in the basement.
We exited the subway station and walked directly into a shopping arcade which is not Nakano Broadway. We realized we were maybe in the wrong place when we tried to go down to the basement and found ourselves in the world's noisiest casino, no ice cream in site. With stops at a few of the many groupings of claw machines full of exciting, nerdy plushes (Dan eventually asked me to cut off his coin supply) and a liquor store where we got the world's cutest bottle of Hibiki, we continued straight through the shopping arcade until we got to a large entrance that said "Nakano Broadway" and found ourselves in the actual mall. We found a staircase down to the basement pretty quickly and found ourselves in an area that mostly was full of butchers and fish mongers. Game for exploration, we figured we'd just walk around until we found Daily Chiko and pretty soon the "no soft serve" signs became more and more prevalent at the food vendors we passed. Finally, at the other end of the basement, in front of the Petit Paris, we found Daily Chiko and got in the long but fast moving line.
This is the face of somebody who spend the morning walking around Harajuku, in the hot sun, on a weekend, and held off eating any frozen treats so that she could make her dream come true but still doesn't quite believe it's happening.
I'm not sure quite how often the flavors change but every picture I've seen looks slightly different. The flavors when we went were: strawberry, coffee milk, vanilla, chocolate, sweet potato (!), caramel, matcha and "fizzing candy". Fizzing candy seems to always be a mix and from what I've read, what it really means is blue marble soda which has kind of a bubble gum taste. Since the cone is too big to eat like a normal soft serve at first, they give you small plastic spoons which worked surprisingly well. I was partial to the mix of strawberry and coffee milk at the top and really into the matcha layer at the bottom. Dan's flavor of choice was sweet potato. I actually thought the orange layer was melon flavored and was surprised when I was looking back through the pictures to see it was caramel. Since the flavors change, if I had the opportunity to go again, I'd still get all eight layers even though I had some stand out favorites. Plus, the Tokudai only costs about $4, so who can resist?!
Despite the size of our cone, we found ourselves in need of a savory snack after finishing since it was late afternoon and we hadn't eaten since mid-morning. We had passed large steam baskets of hand made dumplings on our way to Daily Chiko and we headed back to those.
After a day with a lot of walking, we were happy to find that "Handmaid Dim Sum Mata Ashita" had a small seating area and complimentary water. Dan chose an assortment of pork and shrimp gyoza but having already conquered eight layers of soft serve, I was set on conquering the face sized bun next. All of the dumpling were fresh and piping hot. The divinely fluffy bun was filled with a well seasoned mix of pork, scallion and ginger as were the tender skinned gyoza. Combined with the soft cream, it definitely made a full (if a little backwards) meal.
Now incredibly full, we decided it was best to do some walking and explored the three floors above us. Nakano Broadway is primarily known for it's numerous shops selling anime and figurines and we did a lot of wandering and looking incredulously at the prices of plastic godzillas as well as making a purchase of an assortment of cookies and snack and some postcards, before heading outside.
The streets in the neighborhood around the mall are chock full of small restaurants and bars and fantastic street lights. It had been a long day at this point but since Nakano wasn't really convenient to get back to, we decided to explore for a bit and maybe find a place to grab a drink.
Our final stop was this amazing 80s bar, which had this decor in the entryway and a sandwich board outside advertising it's happy hour and free song requests (I'm pretty sure this is the only sign we saw in English in the neighborhood). We ordered happy hour beers and were presented with a thick book of songs available with music videos and a thinner book of songs available without music videos and the proprietor gave us some slips of paper to make our requests. The music videos being projected seemed primarily to be from the 70s (which lead me to wonder where music videos were played before MTV came along) but the book seemed to mostly have selections from the 80s and everything about it was bizarre and wonderful. Eventually another couple who were clearly regulars came in and immediately wrote down their selection. After some time resting and laughing at the over the top cheesiness of every video, we gathered our stuff and headed back to our hotel to shower and slowly start thinking about what to eat next.
*but seriously, anyone looking for a soft serve columnist?