Fabulous homemade gelato served tall in cones, cups or smashed into a crispy monaka sandwich- this little shop has a loyal following from Hiroshima residents in the know.
Located in the center of Hiroshima just off the covered shopping arcade, adjacent to the Fukuya department store in the area of Tatemachi. Turn right at the SoftBank shop on the corner, walk past Zona Pizza and Southern Cross and a corner fruit shop and cafe on the same block. Polar bear is just past the small street on the left- opposite a small shrine. You will see a stuffed Polar Bear sitting out in front of the shop on a chair when they are open.
Polar Bear (ポーラーベア) is well-known among Hiroshima ice-cream lovers for its high-quality gelato served up in generous portion sizes. I'm always astounded by the volume of ice-cream we are handed when we order a (small) single cone for 300 yen- very impressive. A double cone is 350 yen (or a single in a cup). A crispy monaka gelato sandwich is only 150 yen.
The quality of the gelato is wonderful, completely different from anything you might buy at the supermarket and take home. Most people seem to take-out their ice cream and enjoy strolling around the area window shopping while partaking, but there is also seating on the chairs along the wall indoors.
We have found this a popular place to cool off in summer. One day we were lucky enough to get an indoor seat and the chef was standing right across from me so we had a little chat. I was curious about the difference between gelato and ice-cream, so I asked him and he said very slow and carefully that "gelato" is an Italian word and "ice-cream" is an English word. Then he chuckled and headed to the back of the shop. I guess it might just be as simple as that. Hopefully that little story gives you the impression that the shop staff are pretty friendly if you make an effort to speak a little bit of Japanese.
The gelato here is home-made everyday. The flavors of gelato change occasionally each season. According to the staff, the top three flavors are: chocolate chip, vanilla and melon. My personal favorites are the black sesame, chocolate and the coffee. But they are all very good and I often see a lot of people enjoying the matcha green tea as well whenever I go. There are usually more than 10 varieties of gelato available if you get there early.