From real matcha to Hello Kitty-shaped custard buns…

You’ve already sussed out the best sushi spots in the city, and you know exactly where to get your ramen fix. But there’s more to Japanese food than rice and noodles.

Did you know there are a handful of cafes and bakeries in Dubai that serve up authentic Japanese sweet treats? We’re talking pillow-soft breads filled with custards and creams, red bean buns, jiggling cheesecakes, and frothy matcha tea. From Pikachu cheese tarts to Nutella-filled Totoros, they’re almost too kawaii (cute) to eat. Almost.

Here are three of the best places to find Japanese sweets in Dubai…

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1. Yakitate

This hidden gem of a cafe started out as a small bakery with a smattering of outdoor seating, but grew so popular they had to open a bigger outlet across the road. Yakitate means “freshly baked”, and you’ll be amazed by the huge range of beautiful cakes, breads and pastries this boutique bakery churns out. The fluffy Japanese cheesecake is their best-seller, but you’ll also find adorable character sweets like Hello Kitty buns filled with custard, or Pikachu cheese tarts. You can pair them with a specialty beverage (the milk teas are delicious), or if you’re after something savoury, you should order the weirdly delicious rice and ramen burgers.

Ground Floor, Al Ghurair Centre Extension, Al Rigga. Daily 8.30am to midnight. Tel:050 583 6389. 

2. Yamanote Atelier

Whether you’re popping into the little Dubai Mall outlet or stopping by the cafes in Al Wasl Square and DIFC, you’ll be soothed by Yamanote’s pastel colours and sugary aroma. Their specialty is the Yamanote croissant; a melt-in-your-mouth pastry with a generous dollop of cream cheese and custard, but you should also try the melon bun – a sweet bread roll topped with a cookie crust. The Totoro bun filled with Nutella cream is hard to resist, too. If you want to eat in, there’s a more substantial menu of salads, sandwiches, soups and pastas, and a selection of bottled Japanese drinks, as well as coffees and teas (we recommend the dragon berry iced tea).

Unit 16, Wasl Square Complex, Al Wasl Road. Sun to Wed 8am to 9pm, Thurs to Sat 8am to 10pm. Tel: (04) 399 9559. 
The Dubai Mall, Lower Ground Floor. Sun to Wed 10am to midnight, Thurs to Sat 10.30am to 2am. Tel: (04) 380 7891.
Dubai International Financial Centre. Sun to Thurs 8am to 6pm, Fri and Sat closed. Tel: (04) 351 0786.

3. Chakon Cafe

You won’t find any Pikachus or Totoros here – but you can enjoy the delicate sweets you would find in a real Japanese teahouse. Chakon Dubai is the first international outlet for this lovely little cafe, which is based in Kamakura, Japan. It’s a tiny shop, with just a few tables and a selection of Japanese teas for sale. There’s a huge range of premium teas on the menu, including the best matcha we’ve tasted in Dubai. You can pair your drink with beautifully presented traditional desserts like mochi (rice cakes), anmitsu (a jelly-like pudding), and kakigori (shaved ice with syrup). They also do sushi and ramen, though when we visited these weren’t on the menu, so call ahead to check what’s available.

Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai. Daily 10am to 10pm. Tel: (04) 228 8883.

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