There’s a lot that I love about summer. The additional hours of daylight, awesome fireworks festivals, and the chance to wear a summer kimono are all big plusses in my book.
Still, even I have to admit Japan can get uncomfortably hot at this time of year. A cold beer or cup of sake are both refreshing ways of beating the heat, but there are times when chilled alcohol isn’t an option, such as when I have non-drinking related work to do and/or am already hung-over.
So in order to stay both sober and cool, I eat as much watermelon as I can every summer. And while I don’t think Japanese chain Bagel & Bagel designed their new watermelon bagel just for me, I figured I’m still in the target demographic, and decided to try it out.
While there’s not much variety in the chain’s name, Bagel & Bagel actually has a pretty varied menu, with items such as muffins and cream cheese. Bagels are of course their (ring-shaped) bread and butter. Like a lot of Japanese restaurants and snack makers, the chain regularly spices up their product lineup with limited-time specials, which this summer includes the Suika Bagel (suika being Japanese for “watermelon”).
According to Bagel & Bagel’s press release, only a limited number of the Suika Bagels are available each day. Still, the branch inside the Lumine department store attached to Yokohama Station had plenty in stock when we stopped by on a Saturday a little before 2 in the afternoon.
▼ Some of Bagel & Bagel’s other offerings
There are tables for customers to sit and eat at, but since they were all full when the cashier rang us up, we opted to get our 190-yen (US $1.88) Suika Bagel to-go rather than wait for a seat to open up.
As we unwrapped the bagel, there was a faint but inviting scent of watermelon, a result of the fruit’s juice that Bagel & Bagel mixes into the batter.
Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of seedless watermelon, since I don’t like having to watch out for seeds as I chew, spit them out, or in general do anything that slows down the process of eating more watermelon. For aesthetic purposes, the Suika Bagel does have little black dots mixed in with the dough, which had me worried until it became clear that they’re actually chocolate chips.
▼ Swallow as many as you like. A cocoa plantation won’t grow inside your stomach.
But while the Suika Bagel certainly looks the part, if you were blindfolded and took a bite, you wouldn’t mistake it for a slice of watermelon. There’s a mild and pleasant fruitiness to it, and while it’s pretty sweet by bagel standards, even the chocolate chips don’t pack quite the punch we’d expected from looking at them.
Perhaps knowing that some people might be looking for a more intense flavor experience, Bagel & Bagel also recommends slicing the Suika Bagel and adding either coconut milk or almond jelly, called annindofu in Japanese. Taking their advice, we ran to the store for a pack of the latter.
Almond jelly is eaten chilled, and the extra moisture it imparted brought the sensation a little closer to that of real watermelon. We can’t really say the flavor of the almond jelly and the Suika Bagel do much to blend together, though. What you get is closer to the flavor of the bagel chasing after its more flavorful condiment, giving you two enjoyable, if disconnected, tastes.
Judged as what it is though, instead of a fruit or a dessert, this isn’t a bad bagel at all. It’s tasty, and a good choice if you’re looking for something different or a little more decadent than, say, Bagel & Bagel’s 11-grain bagel made with rye and sorghum. Just make sure to save some room for some actual watermelon later if that’s what you’re really craving.
Related: Bagel & Bagel