Surrounded by Roppongi’s ubiquitous drinking establishments and bathed in the glow of its red-tinted lights, Yelo might be mistaken for another bar. The word “kakigori” written on the lighted sign and the shaved ice banner, emblazoned with the kanji 氷 (ice), give away its true nature.
Kakigori Café and Bar Yelo, which opened in April 2014, has proven to be wildly popular. The first time I tried going, the line went out the door and stretched all the way down the street. Since standing in line for four hours in the heat would defeat the purpose of getting shaved ice, I opted to go again on a weekday evening. Even on a Monday night, a line of about two dozen had formed, and the one and a half hour wait gave me enough time to settle on a flavor.
The Yelo website lists about fifteen flavors, and several extra flavors are listed on the menu at Yelo. These flavors range from the predictable, such as green tea, to the decidedly unusual, such as avocado, watermelon and organic carrot. Kahlua milk, grasshopper and the other nighttime flavors were tempting, but I decided on mango lassi.
The menu lists topping recommendations in red, so I enhanced my mango lassi shaved ice with the recommended tapioca and yogurt. Although Yelo also offers some of the typical bar snacks and drinks, the overwhelmingly popular choice for the night was simply shaved ice.
The wait for the shaved ice gave me a chance to look around at the restaurant. Even inside, Yelo gives off a bar-type vibe. Many of the dimmed lights are red tinted, and jazz plays on the speakers overhead. The sixteen seats in the restaurant were filled almost exclusively by groups of young women, and the only man I saw come in was accompanied by a woman.
Less than ten minutes later, I was faced with a mango-laced mound of shaved ice. The mango syrup was very light, and the ice itself was fluffy rather than crunchy. The tapioca pearls and yogurt sauce came in separate dishes so you can put it on at any point during your kakigori-fest. At the very bottom of the bowl was a layer of chilled milk, a much welcomed surprise before having to head out again into the muggy Tokyo night.
One of the most exciting aspects of Yelo is that it is open every day of the year, so even if you come to Tokyo in the winter, you can try high-quality kakigori. With the momentum Yelo has now, it’s sure to be a hit all year round.
Kakigori Café and Bar Yelo
Address: Patio Roppongi, 1 F, 5-2-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0032
Open: all year round, 11:00 am until early morning (until 11:00 pm on Sundays, public holidays)
Price: From 750 yen for shaved ice