Tenzan Lab are unique in Berlin (and Europe!) and simply a ‘must-see’ for dessert lovers! They craft the popular Tokyo dish called ‘Kakigori’, which is a Japanese dessert of freshly shaved ice drizzled with delicious toppings like Matcha Mascarpone, Raspberry, Tiramisu and many other delicious options. It really has to be tried to be believed, the texture is really light and it literally melts in your mouth! We sent a few questions to the owners to find out a little more…
For those unaware, how would you describe a Kakigori yourselves?
Kakigori is my absolute favourite dessert in Tokyo, and has been for many years!
For me, it’s like a “free-style art form” of traditional Japanese dessert, but actually, Kakigori has nearly 1000 years of history in Japan!
In the last 10 years there has been a movement of the ”New Generation of Kakigori“ which has fascinated sweet lovers of all ages. It’s basically a twist of European ingredients mixed with traditional Japanese ingredients.
In Tokyo, you can find a variety of Kakigori with incredibly experimental ideas which has this dessert into a delightfully pretty and flavourful dessert.
We came to Berlin to share this fun experience of Kakigori with this great city, as we felt that the experimental spirit of Berlin, and the importance of organic produce, would perfectly fit with this.
So in a way, Kakigori for us is a bridge between Berlin and Tokyo.
And how exactly do you make and serve it ?
We place a 12cm² crystal-clear ice block in a hand-crank machine. As you start to spin the hand-crank, a blade on the machine starts to slice the ice block in a spinning motion into very thin fine layers of ice, which develop into a “fluffy mountain of ice”.
We then add different syrups, which are all house-made with seasonal organic ingredients.
It takes quite some time to prepare the variety of house made syrups, but it’s all worth it to serve our healthy and delicious product.
So with the ice being the main component, how do you make the ice so clear and perfectly shaved?
The key for the crystal-clear ice block is the right ph-balance and slow freezing technique. The water is treated with a professional filter to achieve the desired ph-balance and we believe the softness of the water is a very important factor for our product.
Then we freeze the soft water for more than 48hours in between -1 to -10degree to achieve a “slow-melting” process.
We once compared the end result with varying melting times, one fast and one slow and the results of the final ice block were very conclusive.
In the future, we would also like to integrate pure natural water from the mountains.
You’re well known for your incredible Matcha Mascapone flavour, but what others can people expect to try at Tenzan Lab?
We have authentic Japanese flavours such as Hojicha, Kinako,and Uji-Kintoki, as well as refreshing fruits, such as mango, raspberry and rum raisins.
Many customers seem to really love the Hoji-cha Maccarpone.
We also have a big variety of toppings to decorate your own shaved ice mountain.
And do you have a favourite?
The Sake-Lees! It’s naturally sweetened from the fermentation process.
Where do you source your toppings from?
Most of our products are made in-house to ensure we always achieve the quality we would like to present to our customers.
It is is also very important to us to use only organic products, as we like to promise food safety and quality.
Of course, we also offer some vegan options too.
Did you have to import the beautiful ice-shaving machines?
Yes, they’re from Tokyo!
Actually, most of stores in Japan use electric machines to shave ice, but we like to stick to the hand-shave machine as “hand-made” is our most important concept.
Being essentially mostly water, it’s actually quite a healthy dessert too right?
Absolutely, it’s not ice cream – it’s shaved ice! You can feel the lightness whilst eating it and afterwards as well.
So in Tokyo, is it a dessert for after dinner or an afternoon snack to cool down?
It’s a pretty free-style kind of dessert and there aren’t too many rules.
In Tokyo, people have Kakigori whenever they want and even in winter they will wait in long queues for a Kakigori.
You also serve some other snacks from Toyko most Europeans might not be familiar with right?
We serve a fish shaped waffle called Taiyaki with various flavours such as Matcha.
We also offer carefully selected Organic Japanese Green Tea and soon, we’ll start serving Japanese breakfast and Fermentation line ups.
We really want to introduce much more depth to the Japanese food culture, as there are still so many places that only serve sushi in Berlin.
What has been the hardest challenge in launching the first Kakigori place in Europe?
Actually, everything is still hard, as we are running a concept no one else has done before here – but the hardest challenge is probably the ice blocks!
It took our co-owner Stjepan more than 6 months to find the perfect solution to re-produce the quality of the ice block we wanted to achieve.
So which places in Berlin do you like to eat and drink when not at Tenzan Lab?
Wok-Show! It’s the spot my family and I love – their dumplings are great!
My favorite Japanese Restaurant in Berlin is Kumami.
Complete the following sentance “For me, Berlin is…”
… a city that embraces diversity and the feeling of freedom.
Also, I sense challenging spirits in this town. I love people here.
Head down to Tenzan Lab soon – you really will be amazed with their Kakikori desserts!