Meg shows us further proof that no matter where you go in Japan, you’re never very far away from something that tastes really good.
Japan is undeniably a paradise for foodies, but not just because of high-quality ingredients or dedicated chefs. Just as incredible is how easy it is to find tasty food, even without going to the sort of establishments that get written up in the Michelin guide and other journals for discriminating gourmets.
For example, our Japanese-language reporter Meg recently found some of the best ice cream she’s had in months, and it’s a brand available exclusively at a home improvement center.
Konan is one of the biggest home center chains in Japan’s central Kansai region, keeping both professionals and do-it-yourselfers stocked with lumber, gardening equipment, and all sorts of other things to keep residences pleasing to the eye and comfortable to live in. But in the parking lot of select locations, you’ll also find a snack stand called Hana Anne.
As a matter of fact, those are the only places you’ll find Hana Anne. While it may not officially bear the Konan name, all of the chain’s branches are on the premises of Konan home centers. The menu has light fare like takoyaki octopus dumplings and fish-shaped taiyaki sweet bean cakes. What caught Meg’s eye, though, was the lineup of soft serve ice cream.
Professional that she is, Meg is always ready to answer the call of duty where frozen treats are concerned, and so she quickly ordered a vanilla and handed over the 250 yen (US$2.40) Hana Anne charges for each variety.
With the price being so low, Meg kept her expectations in check. The ice cream sure looked tasty, though, and it came in an actual waffle cone, a surprisingly luxurious touch for such and affordable indulgence.
But just like with pudding, the proof is in the eating, so Meg took a taste…
…and was floored by how good Hana Anne’s ice cream is! Rather than just pounding your tongue into submission with sugar, the vanilla is more milky than sweet, with a rich, lingering finish. Hana Anne doesn’t cut corners with any deceptively solid cones, either, as the ice cream continues down to about as low as it can go while still leaving you enough space to grip it with your fingers.
Thoroughly satisfied, yet still not satiated in her desire for dessert, Meg headed back to the counter and ordered a matcha ice cream cone. It was as good as the vanilla in its own way, with just the right amount of bitter green tea notes.
Sadly, a third cone was beyond the capacity of Meg’s stomach, but given that Hana Anne’s remaining flavor is a vanilla/matcha mix, we think we can pretty accurately predict it’s similarly delicious to its components. Honestly, Hana Anne’s ice cream is on par with premium brands costing twice as much, so you really shouldn’t sell it short, even if it’s sold at home centers.