Ice cream may be presented in many enticing and appetising ways, but few do it as well as Azabu Sabo, the Japanese dessert shop and restaurant which makes its dessert look like works of art. 30-year-old Jiang Ying, general manager of Azabu Sabo Singapore, shares some secrets behind Azabu Sabo's famous Hokkaido ice cream, and tells us which interesting ice cream flavour she would add to the menu if given free rein.
Azabu Sabo started out as a dessert shop and teahouse in Tokyo. Was this identical concept brought over to Singapore, or have various changes been introduced?
Azabu Sabo was started in 1979 and has gained in popularity in the past 30 years. In Japan, Azabu Sabo aims to serve traditional Japanese desserts as well as main courses which are similar to home-cooked Japanese meals. However, we had to make certain changes to this concept when Azabu Sabo was brought into Singapore, so as to attract more customers. We try to customise the food to suit the local palette, such as Hokkaido ramen, Japanese curry, unagi tonkatsu etc.
What are some unique qualities of Azabu Sabo's Hokkaido ice cream?
Azabu Sabo has always placed a lot of emphasis on health and wellness, and we incorporate attributes such as low-sugar and low-fat in our food. The same can be said about our Hokkaido ice cream. In Japan, Hokkaido is well-known for its dairy products, particularly the farm-fresh quality of its milk. From this rich, creamy milk, the internationally renowned Hokkaido gelato ice cream is produced. The ice cream is made from fragrant and rich Hokkaido milk, with no chemical additives. It is especially soft and creamy, and comes in a variety of flavours.
All of Azabu Sabo's ice cream sundaes look like colourful works of art. How do you come up with these creations? Where do you get your inspiration from?
We hire a professional in Japan to come up with these flavours. Food presentation is highly important in Japanese cuisine, and the same goes for our desserts. Besides, there is a wide variety of fruit available in tropical Singapore, as compared to Japan. This also contributes to the wide range of fruity flavours of ice cream we serve here.
How does Azabu Sabo differentiate itself from the many ice-cream parlours that have been sprouting up in recent years?
We persist in providing ice cream of the best quality, and discerning customers are always wise enough to know the difference.
Are there any plans to open more Azabu Sabo branches in Singapore?
At the moment, there are no concrete plans to open more branches. However, if we chance upon a good location, we will definitely look into expansion.
What is your favourite Hokkaido ice cream flavour? Is it also the most popular flavour at Azabu Sabo?
It is definitely green tea, and yes, it is the most popular flavour at Azabu Sabo. We specially import top-grade green tea from the well-known tea supplier Kyoto Uji, and our green tea ice cream is creamy and bursting with flavour. I believe Azabu Sabo sells the best Japanese green tea ice cream in Singapore!
If given free rein, what new flavour would you like to add to the menu?
I would love to add "plum" to the list, just because I love the sour-ish taste of plums!
Have customers ever come up with any special requests for their ice cream? What is the most memorable one you can think of?
Previously, we had customers asking us why Azabu Sabo doesn't sell wasabi-flavoured ice cream. We were all rather surprised by this question as wasabi ice cream is seldom or never heard of in Japan. However, this flavour seems to be gaining in popularity in Southeast Asia. Thus, we decided to add this flavour of ice-cream to our menu to satisfy our customers.
Is there a particular flavour of Azabu Sabo's ice cream that is popular with the Japanese but not as well-received by Singaporeans?
Yes, chestnut-flavoured ice cream is not so well-received here. Japanese cuisine is seasonal in nature, what is served on the table ties in with the type of food that is abundant in that season. Chestnut is commonly eaten in autumn, and chestnut-flavoured ice cream is also very popular among the Japanese during this season. However, this flavour doesn't seem to sit well with most Singaporeans.
For those who have yet to savour Azabu Sabo's ice cream, how would you entice them to give it a try?
We have a fan who loves our Hokkaido ice cream so much he came into our shop for ice cream 17 times in a day! Of course, this is a rather extreme example, but I think it shows that our ice cream is really worth a try!
For more information on the restaurant's outlets click here: Azabu Sabo