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Okinawan Gelato at la VOUS (Ginowan City) Created by a Master and Apprentice, Ranking First and Second in the World
post : 2018.12.24 06:00
There’s a gelato specialty shop on Okinawa that carefully and brilliantly brings out the natural tastes of fruits and enhances their tastes. Here, even those who say they like to enjoy their fruits as they are, may just change their minds. The owner of this shop, la VOUS, is Taizo Shibano, a winner in the international gelato contest held in Italy. La Vous is managed by his young apprentice, Katsuya Yonemori, a local man who honed his skills under Shibano.
Delivered direct from the farms every day are fresh and juicy fruits that are used to make the gelato at the shop. They are particular about where these fruits come from, and carefully choose the locations of the farms where these fruits are known to be the best. Their fruits are all from Yanbaru, the northern region of Okinawa Island. For example, the watermelon are delivered from Nakijin Village, the pineapples from Higashi Village, the Beni-Imo potatoes are from Ie Island, and the Shikwasa citrus are from Katsuyama in Nago City.
Katsuya Yonemori stresses, “The quality of the ingredients is half of what makes a gelato delicious. Unlike ice cream, the quality of the fruits in the gelato is definitely significant, and we don’t use any coloring or synthetic additives. That’s what makes gelatos authentic. Okinawa is a treasure trove of fresh ingredients. The citrus varieties are especially excellent.” He continues, “For gelato that uses fruit juice as its main ingredient, we can narrow it down to one type of fruit juice, but often, several fruits are combined to give dimension to the taste.” When Yonemori came in second place in the 2017 competition, he chose to use beets as the base of his creation, inspired by the unique scent of soil that gave a great impact. He added mint, rosemary, and lemon to create a strong, fresh and light harmony of tastes.
The gelato that I want to especially recommend from this shop is their watermelon (from 350 yen). As mentioned, they use watermelon from Nakijin, a village very well-known for its excellent watermelons. The gelato has no added water, just watermelon juice, and the flavor you’ll experience in just one mouthful is so fresh, aromatic and rich that it tastes more watermelon-y than the real thing. Even those who aren’t necessarily fans of watermelon will find it delicious. The color has an Okinawan feel, too, with a brilliant mixture of orange and pink.
My next recommendation is the pineapple, celery, and apple sorbet (from 450 yen). This sorbet was created by Shibano and won the grand prize in the 2017 Italian sherbet festival. Although it is said that celery is one of the least favorite foods of Italians, Shibano decided to use celery in the recipe and enhanced the allure of this vegetable by using pineapples, green apples, lime, and mint. It has a touch of melon-like flavor and a very complex layer of tastes like that of sauces used in French cuisine.
In the 2017 contest held in Japan, the highest number of gelato sold there by far was the coffee flavored hazelnuts & cinnamon gelato (from 450 yen) made by Yonemori. This was created using the ingredients Yonemori himself made sure was of highest quality, and the aroma of the fresh espresso blends very well with the hazelnuts and cinnamon to create a wonderful harmony of flavors and aromas. The crispy textured topping is coffee croquant, which also adds a nice aromatic touch. The finely chopped hazelnuts are roasted under 170 degrees and the biscuit-like confectionary finished with powdered sugar and five times concentrated coffee goes excellent with the creamy gelato.
Yonemori, who is honing his skills in the world of gelato under guidance of Shibano, is only 23 years old. Even at such a young age, he has an impressive record of winning prizes at international events, and is the youngest gelato maestro in Japan. He was given the title of gelato knight by the Italian gelato association in January of 2018. After coming in second place in the freestyle category at the 2017 gelato world competition (Rimin), he entered a different competition in 2018. At this competition, he created the pine nuts and mascarpone gelato, adding a touch of Okinawa’s Awarmori, and came in sixth place, the highest rank that a Japanese national has ever placed in the competition. His master, Shibano, is known to create a harmony of tastes by blending various ingredients, while Yonemori has a knack for bringing out the goodness of one particular ingredient. Their delicious creations using the fruits and herbs carefully and lovingly nurtured by growers in Yanbaru, are like craftwork or artwork.
One of the duties to those given the title of gelato knight includes sharing with the world the attraction of gelato which is a part of the Italian food culture. Another duty issued by the country that brought slow-food to the world, is to utilize the ingredients from local regions to support the revitalization of that particular area. It’s exciting to see how this new food culture brought to Okinawa will work together with the rich flavors of fruits and herbs and other produce grown on the islands with its unique climate and features.
◎Gelato are available in cups: 350 yen for single, 450 yen for double, 550 yen for double. An additional 100 yen for premium gelato flavors, and additional 50 yen to enjoy your gelato in a flower cone.
Address: 3-19-1 Kakazu, Ginowan City, Okinawa
Business Hours: 11:00-19:00
Closed: First Tuesday of the Month
*Prices in the article are current as of July 2018.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda