Donut-inspired ice cream or icy donut, which will win our taste tester’s heart/stomach?

“Donut or ice cream?” is one of those mysterious questions that’s both incredibly easy and unfathomably difficult at the same time. When choosing between two of the world’s greatest desserts, there’s really no wrong answer, but that also means there’s no right answer as to which one to skip when it’s time for a sweet snack.

So we felt both joy and relief when Mister Donut, Japan’s favorite donut chain, and confectioner Morinaga recently announced the Mister Donut Ice Bar. Inspired by Mister Donut’s beloved Choco Fashion, an old-fashioned donut with a partial chocolate coating, the Mister Donut Ice Bar went on sale at Japanese convenience stores towards the end of February, and our Japanese-language reporter Ahiruneko was the lucky guy who drew taste-testing duty.

The key to what makes the Choco Fashion so special is its combination of textures and flavors. The donut is soft on the inside, but has a touch of crunch to its surface texture, while the donut cake’s sweetness mixes with the bitterness of the dark chocolate to give our taste buds multiple things to be happy about. Ahiruneko wondered how well would all of that be replicated in the Mister Donut Ice Bar as he removed its wrapper.

Visually, the ice cream bar follows the donut’s lead by covering less than all the bar in chocolate, leaving the vanilla ice cream exposed near the base of the stick.

There’s something special inside the vanilla ice cream, though: little bits of cookie biscuit. They’re there to give the Mister Donut Ice Bar a crumbly crunchy element, just like in an old-fashioned donut.

So how does it taste? Well, the answer is actually sort of complicated. The simple version is that it tastes great. Morinaga definitely knows how to make good ice cream, and this is sweet and creamy. The chocolate is tasty too, and the cookie bits make it unique, and did remind Ahiruneko a little of the texture of the Choco Fashion donut. However…

…he’s pretty sure eating the ice cream bar only reminded him of the Mister Donut donut because going into this taste test he already knew that was what it was trying to do. If you just handed him the Mister Donut Ice Bar without telling him its name or showing him the package, then had him take a taste, he doesn’t think he’d react with “Oh, this is based on the Choco Fashion, isn’t it?”, and he’s pretty sure anyone who could come to that conclusion in a blind taste test is probably clairvoyant.

So the Mister Donut Ice Bar is a good ice cream bar, but it didn’t satisfy Ahiruneko’s craving for a frozen treat that tastes like a Choco Fashion. Clearly, there was now only one thing to do.

A short time after dashing out to his local Mister Donut Branch, Ahiruneko returned home with a Choco Fashion, which he placed on a plate…

…then covered in plastic wrap and stuck in the freezer!

Virtuously resisting the urge to eat two desserts that evening, he left the donut in the freezer overnight, then indulgently pulled it out for breakfast the next morning, finding it nicely frozen.

This is actually a donut hack that was passed around foodie circles in Japan a while back, as a way to add some extra crunch to old-fashioned donuts. Between the enhanced texture and refreshing chill, this is exactly what Ahirunko was in the mood for, and at just 162 yen (US$1.20), a Choco Fashion is slightly cheaper than the 173-yen Mister Donut Ice Bar, so going the frozen donut route represents a slight financial gain too.

Again, though, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Mister Donut Ice Bar, as it’s a perfectly satisfying choice if you’re craving ice cream with a unique texture. But if you’ve never tried freezing your donuts, you might want to give it a shot too.

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[ Read in Japanese ]