Sadaharu Aoki creates fancy matcha dessert to celebrate casual restaurant’s milestone.

As we’ve mentioned before, Denny’s in Japan tends to be notably nicer than Denny’s in America, with a much more varied menu and higher overall quality to the food. That said, it’s still squarely in the class of eateries known as “family restaurants” in Japan, casual establishments where the majority of diners are probably going to be parents out for an affordable meal with their kids or groups of student friends similarly looking for a bite to eat at affordable prices.

So we were surprised to find out that Denny’s newest menu item is a gourmet dessert created for them by Sadaharu Aoki, a celebrated Japanese patissier who’s made a name for himself by succeeding in the Paris sweets scene.

Aoki, whose chocolates we’ve been fans of for a full decade, was recruited to create a special dessert to celebrate Denny’s 50th anniversary of arriving in Japan. Actually, Denny’s Japan is currently in its 51st year of operations, but you can be forgiven for arriving late to the party when you show up with a gift that looks as nice as this.

That’s the Green Tea and Azuki Bean Crumble with Homemade Orange Sauce, and along with its grandiose name it’s got an eye-popping price for a Denny’s dessert, at 1,694 yen (US$11). Considering you can get all sorts of full meals, including hamburger steak, pasta, sandwiches, and rice plates at Denny’s for less than 1,000 yen, this is a big outlay for a dessert.

Still, we were intrigued, and so we ordered the Aoki-produced dessert. The Denny’s branch we’d chosen was crowded on this day, and so we were a little worried the staff would haphazardly hurry in slapping our sweets together. We shouldn’t have doubted them, though, because when our server returned with the dessert, it was every bit as photogenic as it had looked on the menu.

It didn’t just look good, either, it smelled great too! The enticing scent of matcha green tea rose from it, and we had to resist the constant urge to dig in while we were still photographing it.

The layered dessert has a hazelnut biscuit foundation, with a layer of azuki (sweet red beans) coming next. That’s topped by a matcha cream enhanced with white chocolate, and above that is a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a chocolate at the very top.

We scooped up a spoonful, and the flavor reminded us of ujikintoki, a type of Japanese shaved ice dessert made with matcha, sweet beans, and condensed milk. However, as we chewed we realized we hadn’t dug quite deep enough with our spoon to get much of the hazelnut biscuit in our first bite.

▼ It’s always nice when your work problems can be solved by taking another bite of dessert.

Getting more hazelnut in a mouthful imparts a dash of sophisticated complexity, though at this point it’s still very much a dessert where the Japanese flavors are at the forefront. However…

…there’s also the orange sauce, or confiture d’oranges, if you’re feeling French-fancy. Mixing in some of this not only gives the dessert additional citrusy sweet and tart aspects, it also sets up a contrast that makes the matcha’s pleasingly bitter green tea notes more prominent by comparison.

The vanilla ice cream and chocolate, by comparison, were pretty much what you’d expect in a basic family restaurant dessert in terms of deliciousness. That’s not a complaint, though (ice cream and chocolate are always welcome on our plate), and the other, more premium ingredients come together in a beautiful and satisfying ensemble of flavors.

As is often the case with special desserts in Japan, the Green Tea and Azuki Bean Crumble with Homemade Orange Sauce is a limited-time quantity, with Denny’s Japan saying that a total of 45,619 orders will be served, which they expect to last until early July.

Related: Denny’s Japan location finder
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