During the busiest times at his now-shuttered shop Sebastian Kakigori in Shibuya, Tokyo, chef Hiroshi Kawamata was serving 400 bowls of his signature shaved-ice dessert every day.

A first foray into the Australia scene at the end of last year saw Kawamata oversee a successful pop-up collaboration at Kantaro Okada’s Leonie Upstairs in Carlton. And now, he has decided to upend his life, leave Tokyo, and move to Melbourne.

He’s again teamed up with Okada, who is behind popular Japanese spots 279, Le Bajo Milkbar, Hareruya Pantry and Chiaki, to bring Sebastian Kakigori permanently to Queen Street in the CBD. The 20-seat shop’s white walls, prominent use of concrete and timber benches have Okada’s fingerprints all over it.

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“We wanted to showcase a piece of Japanese history,” Okada tells Broadsheet, noting that kakigori’s origins go back to the Heian period and that the dessert was once a luxury item for Japanese nobles. Back then, hand tools were used for shaving ice, prior to the invention of the ice-shaving machine.

At Sebastian Kakigori, it all starts with a block of ice. Not just any ice, but Kuramoto ice made of water from Mount Haku on the western side of the island of Honshu. The water is frozen for over 48 hours to separate the minerals, and then agitated to remove microbubbles and impurities. The result is a slow-melting ice that doesn’t impart any flavour.

A machine locks the ice in place and spins it against a meticulously calibrated blade, shaving off soft flakes into the bowl below. As the snow piles up into a mini-mountains, Kawamata adds layers of syrup, crumble, foam and diced fruit to complete each bowl of kakigori.

“The flavour changes with the layers,” Okada explains. “Eat from top to bottom, as quickly as possible.”

Kawamata, who previously worked in French cuisine, has developed different ways to amp up kakigori while maintaining a balance of flavours, textures and temperatures. His signature crème brûlée – ice layered in a large ramekin with condensed milk and strawberry that’s then topped with meringue and blowtorched to resemble the French dessert – is a prime example of this.

Other signature menu items include “Rare Cheese” (paired with pineapple and mixed berry compote), “Mango Lassi” (layered with aloe vera pulp and passionfruit sauce) and “Blonde Chocolate”, which contains orange peel and cafe au lait sauce and is topped with rum foam and waffle crunch.

Takeaway options are available. The ice melts slowly, but with desserts this good, they will not last the trip home.

Sebastian Kakigori
203 Queen Street, Melbourne

Tues to Fri 3pm–10pm
Sat 1pm–10.30pm
Sun 1pm–9.30pm