The fall classic dessert is here for this three-way taste-test showdown.

As it always does, the arrival of fall has us thinking about Mont Blanc. And while we enjoy a nice hike as much as the next person, when we say “Mont Blanc” we’re not talking about the mountain in the European Alps, but the chestnut-based dessert that’s on cafe menus across Japan.

Mont Blanc isn’t an autumn-only dessert, as some places serve it year-round. With chestnuts coming into season, though, right now a lot of restaurants and sweets shops have brought their Mont Blanc back as a limited-time item, and the result is that all three of Japan’s most popular coffee chains, Starbucks, Tully’s, and Dotour, are currently serving Mont Blanc.

So yes, Mont Blanc fans are literally eating well these days, but out of the big three coffee chains, which is the best to eat Mont Blanc at? To find out, our dedicated Japanese-language reporter Mariko Ohanabatake took on the assignment of eating Starbucks, Tully’s, and Dotour’s Mont Blanc in a single sitting, all to help you choose the Mont Blanc that’s best for you.

Let’s start with a formal introduction for each of our challengers to the chestnut cream crown.

Starbucks’ Hand-Pressed Chestnut Mont Blanc (520 yen [US$3.55])

Tully’s Mont Blanc (520 yen)

Dotour’s Kumamoto Prefecture Japanese Chestnut Mont Blanc (530 yen)

As you can see, they’ve made it easy on us by being almost identically priced, so that we can compare them purely by eating experience. Out of the three, Dotour’s Mont Blanc is the only one that’s available year-round, while Starbucks’ and Tully’s are seasonal desserts.

And now, let’ get to the tasting notes.

● Starbucks’ Hand-Pressed Chestnut Mont Blanc

Starbucks makes a point of telling you the chestnuts are pressed by hand, and their Mont Blanc does have really nice, fine strings of chestnut paste coating the rest of the ingredients. The internal layers are a peak of whipped cream, a center stratum of chestnut mousse, and a crunchy cookie crumble base. Out of the three challengers, this one looks and feels the most like what you’d get at a fancy cake specialty store, though the chestnut mousse has a clean finish, and combined with the stronger-tasting chestnut paste there’s a lot of chestnut flavor to enjoy here, even with its size compared to the other two.

● Tully’s Mont Blanc

Tully’s gives you an actual chestnut piece on top, sitting in chestnut paste that’s more a contoured solid than the separate strings of the Starbucks Mont Blanc, with a whipped cream core. What really sets the Tully’s Mont Blanc apart, though, is that it sits in a little pie/tart crust that comes up on the sides a bit.

Flavor-wise, this one has the lightest chestnut taste out of the three, and Mariko actually got some coffee-like sensations from the chestnut paste. The pie crust does give this one a more satisfyingly filling quality, though, so she recommends it if you’re craving some substantial sweets in general as opposed to super in the mood for chestnut cream specifically.

● Dotour’s Kumamoto Prefecture Japanese Chestnut Mont Blanc

It may have the longest name, but Dotour’s Kumamoto Prefecture Japanese Chestnut Mont Blanc is the simplest, most straightforward take on the dish out of these three. You’ve got strands of chestnut paste around a lot of whipped cream that stands on a thin macaron crust. But while it looks like the flavor profile is going to be 90-percent just whipped cream, Dotour’s chestnut paste actually packs the strongest chestnut flavor of any of the trio’s, with the crust delivering a nice crunch like a point of punctuation as you bite into it.

▼ Left to right: Starbucks, Tully’s, and Dotour

Since the Tully’s Mont Blanc doesn’t really give you all that much chestnut flavor, Mariko kind of thinks it should be considered a separate dessert. That leaves Starbucks and Dotour in the running, and for normal days when she’s only going to be eating one serving, not three at a time, Mariko says she’d make Starbucks her pick. Dotour’s chestnut paste might be more flavorful than Starbucks’, but when you add in its layer of chestnut mousse, Starbucks’ Mont Blanc has the most chestnut flavor overall.

Mariko is quick to point out, though, that Dotour’s Mont Blanc is delicious too, in a simpler way that sticks to the baseline appeal of old-school Mont Blanc. It also has the benefit of being something you can order all year long, so even if she’s choosing Starbucks today, she’ll probably be enjoying Dotour’s on the regular again once winter starts.

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