Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Best Traditional Japanese Dessert Cafes in Sendai

When you visit Sendai, the capital of the kingdom of the famous samurai, Date Masamune, you will notice that supermarkets, restaurants, and cafes are selling a particular traditional dessert with a creamy light green topping wherever you go. That mysterious light green colored topping can also be found in various types of drinks!

So what is it?

The traditional dessert is called Zunda Mochi (ずんだ餅). It is basically plain mochi rice cake with sweetened mashed green soybeans poured over.

The process of hitting and crushing the beans is called Zuda (豆打). So initially, the dessert probably was called Zuda Mochi. But as time passed by, the pronunciation slightly varied and it is now commonly known as Zunda, at least since the 16th century.

People in Sendai are so proud of the Zunda Mochi that Date Masamune showcased Zunda Mochi to Toyotomi Hideyoshi!

Ⓒ 宮城県観光プロモーション推進室

As almost every restaurant and cafe sells some kind of Zunda product, to save you from having to locate where to taste this must-try specialty, we have collated the top cafes to visit for the best Zunda Mochi/dessert in Sendai!

The Must-Visit Cafes in Sendai

Ocha no Igeta Sendai-Chūō (お茶の井ヶ田 仙台中央本店)

If you love traditional Japanese confectionaries, stop by Ocha no Igeta Sendai-Chūō for morning or afternoon tea! Of course, they have many other sweets for you to take away if you are in a hurry as well.

Ocha no Igeta is a tea shop that was opened in 1920. As a latecomer to the tea business, Ocha no Igeta focused on providing the best quality tea to its customers. The premium-grade matcha powder is the secret to the deliciousness of the products sold in their cafe.

If you love drinking beer, give their Matcha Green Tea Beer (井ヶ田抹茶ビール) a try. As the green tea powder is only mixed into the beer after an order is received, you can smell the elegant fragrance of matcha. Its slight bitterness blends in really well with the beer (=゚ω゚)ノ.

At their Sendai-Chūō store, they also have a corner called Agurie no Mori (アグリエの森), dedicated to specialties from Akiu Onsen located in the city’s west.

Ocha no Igeta Sendai-Chūō’s Best Dessert Menu

The most popular menu is their Teapot Parfait (急須パフェ). The extremely cute dessert set contains the best of their dessert menu. It includes matcha-flavored soft serve, matcha mini Kikufuku mochi, Dorayaki with matcha cream sandwiched, homemade Shiratama Rice Cake, red bean paste, corn flakes, and Matcha no Sato (抹茶の里), which is a matcha cream roll.

If you want to avoid consuming eggs, try their Teapot Anmitsu (急須あんみつ). What fills the teapot is Mini Kikufuku Rice Cake, red bean paste, fruits, original flavor agar, and matcha-flavored agar made in-store.

Kikufuku (喜久福) mochi is Ocha no Igeta’s best seller. What is wrapped by the mochi skin is red bean paste and matcha-flavored cream. In addition to the matcha flavor, they also have original cream, Zunda, and roasted-tea-flavored Kikufuku.

For those who love soft serve cream, Ocha no Igeta has five different soft serve creams for you to choose from. The darker the color, the more bitter it is (but also more premium!).

Ocha no Igeta Sendai-Chūō’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Ocha no Igeta Sendai-Chūō is open from 10 am to 7:30 pm.
    • The last order is taken at 7 pm.
  • From Sendai Station, it is a 3-minute walk.

Murakamiya Mochiten (村上屋餅店)

Miyagi Prefecture‘s most famous specialty is Zunda Mochi. Such simple ingredients make it completely understandable if the dessert underwhelms you before you taste it.

But there is a mochi shop in Sendai selling Zunda Mochi that people would still queue up for! The mild Zunda Mochi taste served at Murakamiya Mochiten is different from other places. Even those who don’t usually like the dessert found it delicious!

And there is no wonder why the shop can make such mouthwatering desserts….the owner’s ancestor was responsible for the Date clan’s dessert making!

The secret to Murakamiya Mochiten’s delicious Zunda Mochi is how the sweetened bean paste is prepared. Before the beans are mashed, the staff would remove the thin transparent skin that covers the bean one by one. Although it is a time-consuming process, it is Murakamiya Mochiten’s way of showing respect to their customers.

Furthermore, Murakamiya Mochiten doesn’t make a lot of mochi rice cake in one go. They will wait until it is nearly running out, so you are guaranteed to be able to enjoy the freshest mochi rice cake!

Making the mashed bean paste and mochi rice cake isn’t hard for the locals. Therefore the shop is determined to provide the best dining experience for those willing to come to the shop and pay to enjoy this simple dish.

Zunda Mochi isn’t the only thing on the menu, of course! The most recommended dine-in menu is the Sanshoku Mochi (三色餅). In addition to their signature Zunda Mochi, it comes with two other flavors, black sesame and walnuts. The black sesame and walnut pastes are sweeter than the green bean paste. Murakami Mohciten purposely reduced the sugar used to make the “Zunda” so that you can enjoy the original taste of the beans. The other reason for making a less sweet Zunda is to get a good balance between the three flavors.

Besides the mochi rice cake, there will also be a small plate of pickled vegetables called Shinko (新香). The savory pickled vegetables play the same role as the coffee beans placed next to perfumes to reset your senses. So before you try another flavor, remember to eat some Shinko!

☛ You can request the shop to replace the topping on Sanshoku Mochi with red bean paste. It is also possible to have two mochi rice cakes with the same flavor and the other with another topping.
☛ Remember to take preventative measures for sunburns if you plan to head there in summer and on a weekend or public holiday. You may need to queue under the sun for more than 30 minutes to dine in.

Murakamiya Mochiten’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Murakamiya Mochiten is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm except for Mondays and Tuesdays.
    • The last order is taken at 5:45 pm.
  • From Sendai Station’s (仙台駅) west exit, it is around a 15-minute walk.
  • From Sendai Subway’s Itsutsubashi Station (五橋駅), it is around a 5-minute walk.

Tamazawa Souhonten (玉澤総本店 一番町店)

Tamazawa Souhonten’s cafe is the best place to visit if you love to consume dessert like a fine lady.

The long-established Japanese confectionery shop has a Western-styled cafe space above its ground floor shop front. While the shop appears to look the same as other traditional confectionary shops, things will start to look different as you proceed to the staircases leading to the second floor.

Coming from the shopping street, stepping into the elegantly decorated cafe space is like traveling to another world. At the end of the staircases is a modern setting. If there is just one dining set, the vibe is just like a living room owned by the wealthy!

In addition to the Zunda Mochi, Tamazawa Souhonten has a range of traditional and Western dessert and drink menus. The most interesting one is probably the coffee served by a balance siphon. Making coffee with this rare item from 19th-century Vienna is like performing a science experiment!

Tip: You can also get to the cafe by using the elevator.

Tamazawa Souhonten’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Tamazawa Souhonten is open from 10:30 am to 6 pm.
    • The cafe is open from 11 am to 5:30 pm.
    • The last order is taken at 5 pm.
  • From Sendai Station (仙台駅), it is around a 15-minute walk.

Hikoichi (甘味処 彦いち)

The next spot is located in an alley from an arcade. It is the best place to visit if you have a sweet tooth. The popular traditional-style cafe was previously a fancy Japanese-style restaurant before it was transformed into a cafe in 1976. In addition to its dessert menu, Hikoichi also offers several light meal options, albeit most of them aren’t vegetarian.

One of the best things about Hikoichi is that all traditional desserts are made from scratch. For example, the red beans are slowly cooked for two hours after overnight soaking. Besides the sweet taste, it also has a slight taste of salt!

This is why the taste is completely different from those sold in supermarkets. Even those who normally don’t like red bean paste find it delicious!

☛ Get there early for a seat next to the small Japanese garden. The cafe can be full 30 minutes after it opens, even on a weekday.
☛ If you don’t read Japanese, check out the menu item figures displayed at the entrance.
☛ It is best to go to Hikoichi on a weekday. If you plan to head there on weekends and public holidays, expect a queue. This includes outside of normal lunch hours.
☛ For a vegetarian light meal, you can order Kuro Okowa Set (栗おこわセット). Kuri Okowa is glutenous rice cooked with chestnuts. But just note the miso soup probably contains bonito extract.

Hikoichi’s Secret Menu – Kurumi Shiruko

Aside from Zunda Mochi, another recommended dessert menu is Kurumi Shiruko (くるみしるこ). The creamy walnut soup complements well with the grilled mochi rice cake. Compared to the regular azuki bean soup, walnut soup has a pleasant and rich fragrance and taste of walnuts.

However, it is sweeter than the normal azuki bean soup, which is why it is best to eat it with the savory pickled vegetables that come with it.

The traditional desserts served at Hikoichi, including Zunda Mochi, are made in the same style as how it was done in the past (i.e. full sugar level). While some may find it too sweet, it may be suitable for those who prefer a mild soybean taste.

Hikoichi’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Hikoichi is open daily from 11 am to 7 pm except for Mondays.
    • The last order is at 6:30 pm.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
    • The restaurant closes from the end of December to the beginning of January.
  • It is around a 5-minute walk from Sendai Subway’s Kotodai Kōen Station (勾当台公園駅).

Tip: If you plan to drive to Hikoichi, check to see if you can still get free parking at the car park next door. But that may only work if you spend a certain amount of money in the restaurant!

Gengo Chaya (源吾茶屋)

The last recommended spot selling delicious traditional desserts is located next to the Sakuragaoka Shrine (櫻岡大神宮) in Nishi Park. While it isn’t located in the business district, the cafe’s quality is hailed by many celebrities. You will be surprised by the number of autographs pasted on the wall!

It is also a great place to visit if you are a cat lover because felines are spotted regularly around the teahouse!

The traditional cafe opened in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) is the perfect setting to enjoy the mochi rice cake. Similar to Murakamiya Machiten, the recommended menu is Okonomi Sanshoku Mochi (おこのみ三色もち).

Okonomi means as one desired. At Gengo Chaya, you can choose from six toppings: black sesame, red bean paste, Zunda, soybean powder plus brown sugar syrup (Abekawa, あべ川), grated reddish, and natto (fermented soybeans).

While we can’t bear the smell personally, if you are a big fan of natto, definitely give it a try!

The rice cake there is soft but chewy, making it really easy to consume. If you would like some fun while eating it, see how far you can stretch the rice cake with your fingers (´▽`*).

  • The Zunda bean paste is smooth. Rather than the usual sweet taste, the Zunda there is rather salty.
  • The grated reddish is spicy.
  • Instead of the strong natto taste, the natto mochi’s taste is rather mild.

Gengo Chaya’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Gengo Chaya is open from 11 am to 6 pm.
    • The last order is taken at 5:30 pm.
  • From Sendai Subway’s Ōmachi Nishi Kōen Station (大町西公園駅) is just a one-minute walk.

Bonus Delicious Spot 1: Onigiri Chaya Chikanchan (おにぎり茶屋 ちかちゃん)

The rice served in Japan is probably the most delicious rice in the world. So if you love rice, this country is going to be heaven for you.

Where to enjoy this staple food in Sendai? Visit Onigiri Chaya Chikanchan, a riceball cafe a few stations away from Sendai Station. The riceballs sold there are just amazing, and they are cheap!

In addition, starting from Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japan, many celebrities have dined at Onigiri Chaya Chikachan and have left their autographs (=゚ω゚)ノ!

Except for the takeaway ones, all the riceballs are made to order. Those riceballs are also bigger than usual, making it a better deal than the ones sold at the convenience stores!

One thing to note is that their dining area is located on the second floor, and the stairs are rather steep. So if you are less mobile, taking away would be a better option.

Tip: Utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to order the vegetarian riceball!

Onigiri Chaya Chikanchan’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Onigiri Chaya Chikachan is open from 10 am to 3 pm from Tuesday to Saturday.
    • It also closes on public holidays.
  • From Sendai Subway’s Oroshimachi Station (卸町駅), it is a 15-minute walk.

Tip: If you are looking for a place for breakfast, the Date Cafe O’rder (ダテカフェ オーダー) on JR Sendai Station’s 2nd floor can be a good choice. It is open from 7:15 am to 11 pm.

ankoya Ekimae (ankoya あんこや)

You may have heard of a Japanese dessert called Dorayaki (どら焼き), and it might even be one of your favorite Japanese confections. But have you ever seen a squared Dorayaki?

ankoya, a Dorayaki specialty shop, makes Dorayaki in a non-conventional shape. On top of its unique shape, their Dorayaki is absolutely delicious. So even on a weekday, a queue is usually expected just as the shop opens!

The secret to its deliciousness lies in how all the ingredients are cooked. The azuki beans are first boiled for 8 hours until soft before being kneaded by hand to create homemade mashed bean paste. The castella patties are all made one by one before they are used to wrap the homemade bean paste to form the squared Dorayaki.

Unlike the Dorayaki sold in supermarkets which only consists of a thin layer of bean paste, ankoya’s Dorayaki filling is twice as thick as the patties.

What is the reason for making it squared? ankoya wants customers to taste its proudly made bean paste no matter which part of the Dorayaki they sink their teeth in.

ankoya has four standard flavors: red bean, butter, mochi rice cake, and walnuts. Depending on the season, they also have limited edition Dorayaki, such as matcha or cheese cream, made available.

☛ If you are eyeing the limited edition Dorayaki, head to ankoya as early as possible, as they can be sold out in a matter of hours!
☛ Reserve your squared Dorayaki before you go to the shop by calling them. It is probably best to call after 3 pm as staff are less likely to be busy.
☛ Grab their Kodora (こどら) box that contains all four standard flavors of Dorayaki, but in mini size. That way, you can enjoy all the flavors before they go bad!

ankoya Ekimae Shop’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • ankoya Ekimae is open from 10 am to 7 pm from Monday to Saturday.
  • It is around a 2-minute walk from Sendai Station.

Discover Other Fantastic Attractions in Sendai

You might not be aware of it, but Sendai, the Tōhoku region‘s biggest city, receives more than 20 million tourists each year!

So if you want to find out how Sendai managed to attract so many people to visit it, refer to our article on Sendai, which is filled with historical, cultural, and natural attractions (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click the photo to find out about other amazing attractions in Sendai!

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