It’s now August and we’re in the midst of high summer, with consecutive days full of bright sun and warm temperatures. Staying indoors is the best plan and when one heads outside, the sun is only tolerable for so long before it’s time to rest in the shade and keep cool. And on a day like yesterday, nothing is more refreshing than a nice bowl of shaved ice.
My friend Jee reminded me of this when I saw her photos of a refreshing dessert at Kokage, one of the restaurants that’s part of Ippodo, a Japanese tea show in midtown near Grand Central Terminal. For the past week, Kokage had been hosting a special pop-up. They teamed up with Nakamuraken, a Kyoto sweets shop, to bring some special treats to New York, in particular Kakigori (shaved ice). I made a note to visit but I’d been busy and had forgotten about it. My friend Q asked if I wanted to go on Sunday, the last day of the pop-up and I happily tagged along.
We arrived late afternoon and noted they had already run out of some of the specials; that was fine as we really just wanted the shaved ice. There were two flavors available to order: the Shiratama Uji Kintoki and Rhubarb. The former is the more traditional flavor, with matcha, red beans, mochi and condensed milk; the latter was created specifically for this week. Most of the other customers I saw ordered the traditional and that was what we both wanted as well. It arrived with a cup of hot hojicha on the side. The one thing that was a little different about our orders was that they ran out of condensed milk so we were served a matcha syrup to pour on the shaved ice instead; I didn’t mind at all since I’m not too big a fan of condensed milk. So we ended up just being a bit more over-caffeinated which wasn’t terrible. The shaved ice was absolutely delicious and was the perfect way to cool down after walking around all afternoon in the sun.
Since the shaved ice was mostly water, it did not fill our stomachs. The advantage of that was that we ended up ordering the rhubarb shaved ice as well, splitting it between ourselves. It was light and fruity, flavored with lemon and served with a dollop of rhubarb jam. The flavor of the rhubarb ice was much more subtle than the matcha one; of the two, I definitely preferred the not too bitter but flavorful matcha over the rhubarb.