Taiyaki Bar: A Japanese ice cream spot debuts in Prague

Taiyaki Bar opened for business just a few weeks ago but is already becoming a social-media darling for its visually appetizing soft-serve creations.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 14.06.2023 14:44:00 (updated on 14.06.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague's abundance of and desire for ice cream seemingly knows no bounds. As the weather warms up, lines form for scoops of authentic Italian gelato and hand-churned sorbets in flavors as tantalizing as they are trendy (lavender, sea buckthorn, rice).

For anyone in need of yet another way to enjoy frozen dairy delights, a new player on the ice cream scene has arrived just in time for summer: the first establishment in Prague devoted to the art of taiyaki.

Tucked away amid a clutch of shipping-container food vendors behind the Kotva department store, Taiyaki Bar opened for business just a few weeks ago but is already becoming a social-media darling for its visually appetizing soft-serve creations.

Taiyaki is a golden-brown Japanese pastry with a texture that's somewhere between a sponge cake and a waffle. First sold in Japan in 1909, the fish-shaped cake is traditionally filled with red bean paste or flavored custard (its name is a combination of the words "tai," which means sea bream, and "yaki," which means to bake or grill).

A cafe in Toyko called Naniwaya Souhonten is credited with transforming the fish into an ice cream cone. The treat gained widespread popularity in 1978, thanks to the emergence of an incredibly popular children's song called "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" which translates to "Swim! Taiyaki," according to the Japan Times.

On a weekend visit, I spoke to one-half of the young Vietnamese couple who run the Taiyaki Bar (he asked for anonymity preferring to keep the spotlight purely on the product). The duo, who grew up in Prague, come honestly by their profession with a shared background in restaurants and sales.

"It took a while to smooth the whole process of making the fish as it was very complicated," he said. When pressed the friendly young man wouldn't reveal the secret behind the venue's namesake fish cake, which has a texture slightly reminiscent of a mochi.

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The owner told me that Taiyaki Bar has been open for three weeks following a few test runs and a soft opening.

"Our dough is our secret recipe, the texture is chewy inside and crunchy outside. We didn't yet have time to make a plant-based version," he said, adding, "We didn't expect such a demand. Prague didn't have any Asian ice cream shops."

He told me that the Prague version breaks from tradition to offer more of a complete dessert than the snack of Japanese street food sellers. It's definitely best enjoyed sitting down.

The warm, crispy exterior of the fish envelopes not only a decadent filling (choose from Nutella or red bean paste) but acts as a vehicle for soft serve in a variety of Asian-inspired flavors (brown sugar milk tea, jasmine milk tea, matcha, and pandan). Brown sugar and milk tea are best sellers though the owner told me that every two weeks they change flavors (previously purple ube made an appearance on the menu).

Once your flavors and fillings are selected, there's the matter of toppings which range from Pocky sticks to Oreos, dehydrated fruit, sprinkles, cinnamon-toast cereal flakes, and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. (Prices range from CZK 95-159).

Opt for a fish cone or sunyaki style (served in a cup), or skip the fish cake altogether and just go for the sundae. You can also buy the Taiyaki on its own filled with taro, vanilla custard, Nutella, red bean paste, or savory cheddar (2 for CZK 99).

Sunyaki with red bean paste, brown sugar and milk tea-matcha soft serve, dried strawberries, and Oreos.
Sunyaki with red bean paste, brown sugar and milk tea-matcha soft serve, dried strawberries, and Oreos.

If you're in the center and craving soft serve but feeling averse to trdelnik in all its foolish formats, this sweet little hideaway offers a much more authentic representation of Prague's food scene: diverse, casual, and made for sharing.

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