“The secret to our onigiri is good rice,” Kobe-born Kei Okamoto tells Broadsheet.

At Shiro Gelato & Snack, she uses Massigura rice from Aomori Prefecture to make her onigiri. (They plan to switch to organically grown Akitakomachi rice from Akita Prefecture soon.) The rice is packed with fillings, such as spicy tuna; chicken mince with marinated egg; shallots with miso and citrus chilli paste; and salmon, before being wrapped in imported seaweed from Japan.

Shiro, which opened on Elizabeth Street earlier this month, offers 12 onigiri and nine flavours of gelato. This is Okamoto’s second location, following the original store in Southport, which opened last year.

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The popularity of Okamoto’s stores is unsurprising. The combination of Japanese-style gelato and onigiri appeals to office workers seeking a quick, affordable lunch option, as well as those looking for a late-night dessert. Okamoto credits the inspiration for this pairing to a visit with her husband to New York in 2023.

“At first we only wanted to sell gelato,” she says. “When we visited New York, everyone was having onigiri on the street.”

Initially, the idea was met with scepticism. “Everyone said, ‘Onigiri and gelato? Not a good combination’, but for lunch, onigiri is popular, and at night, gelato is popular.”

Shiro (which means “white” in Japanese) reflects its name with a clean and minimalistic design. The interior features white walls, white tiles and a timber-topped counter where the onigiri is prominently displayed. According to Okamoto, the intent was to create a blank canvas where the food, drinks and patrons add to the colour.

Drinks include matcha and hojicha lattes, strawberry twists on the two lattes and a variety of flavoured sodas.

As for gelato, flavours include yuzu chocolate, miso caramel, Hokkaido milk and black sesame. Shiro’s signature offering is gelato wrapped in mochi, known as daifuku. There’s also warabi mochi – a jelly-like confection coated in soybean flour, matcha or chocolate.

Shiro Snack and Gelato
Shop 2b/131 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane

Daily 11.30am–10pm