By Melissa Hill
Although the current food craze in Japan is pancakes, muffins are also very popular, with a slower, more lasting appeal. The perfect vehicle for many flavor combinations, muffins lend themselves to both Western and Japanese ingredients, as 82_no_28 (wani no niwa) Bakery demonstrates so well.
40 Plan: Lovely Muffin is a more centrally located place to get your muffin fix. It opened recently, in January of 2013. It's not far from Clis Road shopping arcade, but it feels hidden in a quiet little street. Walking from Sendai Station, go right at Claire's Accessories, then take the second right and it's a few meters down the road on the left.
The tiny shop is a specialty takeout, a compliment to a nearby cafe with a similar name. As the name suggests, the main fare is muffins, but there's also coffee. In summer they offer another wonderful treat – kaki goori, or shaved ice.
The muffins are available in two sizes, the larger ones as singles and the smaller ones together in bags. Although the majority are sweet, some savory ones are also on offer. I found the savory side to be more interesting, if limited, partly due to novelty, but also due to a greater use of Japanese ingredients. For example, there was a muffin with gobou (burdock root) and sesame seeds. The sweet muffins aren't particularly original, but the combination of flavors is good.
The best part of this shop is only available in summer. For the very reasonable price of ¥300, you will get a generous portion of cool refreshment. There are various flavors, some costing a little more, but the most complicated arrangement is still only ¥400. It comes in a cardboard bowl with a balsa wood spoon. Although the green tea ice and the kinako (soybean flour) ice looked spectacular, I chose the strawberry sauce, condensed milk and azuki bean flavor.
There's no artificial syrup here: all of the ingredients are made in-store and they are delicious. The combination of flavors and textures was sensational: the crunchy ice with the creamy milk and the soft beans, which had an almost savory quality to balance the fragrant sweetness of the strawberry sauce. I ate it on seating near the shop, enjoying the peace of the mostly deserted street.
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