Sendai has three main food specialties (which are mostly shared with the rest of Miyagi): sasakamaboko, gyutan and zunda. Zunda is a sweet paste made of edamame (immature soy beans). It's often used to cover mochi (rice cakes filled with anko), giving them a green hue that not everyone finds appetizing. If the thought of eating it directly is putting you off, why don't you try it in a roll cake?
A common sight for anyone who has walked through Sendai Station, Zunda Saryo's green sign is distinctive and evocative of the beans it uses. The name literally means “zunda tea pavillion”, and it can be found in several parts of the station. On the first floor is their cafe. Outside is a small booth for purchasing take out items and edible souvenirs, which opens earlier at 8a.m.; inside is a modest seating area. Some sections of wall are made from glass, which may put some people off because you could be clearly visible to passers-by in the station.
The menu has the standard cafe favorites of tea and coffee, but it's the sweets that everyone comes for. There's zunda mochi, but also the more unusual zunda anmitsu (a traditional dessert with agar jelly and fruit) and zunda roll cake. Zunda shake and zunda pudding are available for take out, too.
The cafe is very popular – even on a weekday, if you go even late afternoon you could well find (as I did) that some of the items on the menu have sold out. When I went, there was even a sign asking people to buy zunda shakes on the second floor because the cafe had run out.
Luckily for me, the zunda roll cake was still available. It's served with vanilla ice-cream, black beans decorated with a hint of gold foil, and complementary cold green tea. The roll cake was creamy and moreish. The zunda flavor was rather subtle – perfect for a first taste. The ice-cream was delicious, and gave a lovely cold contrast to the room-temperature cake. The green tea was traditionally bitter to complement the sweet cake, so it's best drunk in-between bites.
On another day, I bought a zunda shake to take out. The shake was creamy and sweet – again, you couldn't clearly taste any zunda flavor. As with the cake, it was gone too soon and I was left wanting more.
For a gentle introduction to one of Sendai's specialties, try Zunda Saryo. Zunda is subtly added to their sweets to delicious effect. Although if you'd rather try it in private, perhaps you should try their take out option!
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