When Melbourne’s consul-general of Japan – Junji Shimada – shows up for a store launch, you know it’s a big deal. But the hype surrounding Japanese dessert chain Letao’s first Australian location is due.

Since launching in Hokkaido, Japan, 25 years ago, the wildly popular cheesecake specialist has built a name around showcasing the region’s dairy, one of its most famous exports. And though it already had an online presence in Australia, its Swanston Street shop is the first physical location outside of Asia – and the first of many to come.

Designed by K. Holland (which is also behind Minamishima’s fit-out), the space is a stark contrast to the countryside aesthetic the brand’s become synonymous with overseas – though there’s talk of introducing the design across future stores. The sleek, charcoal-tinted design is a standing-room-only situation, with plastic replicas of each product on prime display through the front window.

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Hokkaido milk is transformed into soft serve ice-cream, mascarpone crème brûlée tarts, jam- and cream-filled Swiss rolls and Letao’s signature Double Fromage cheesecake.

They’re rich, velvety and melt-in-your-mouth, with double layers of cream (from Hokkaido) and baked cheese (from Italy and, coincidentally, Australia), all surrounded by a crumb coating. “It symbolises the Hokkaido snow,” says Shimada.

In addition to the classic flavour, find alternatives like dark chocolate, matcha and Hokkaido red melon, available whole for $40. If you want to sample them by the slice, opt for the soft serve (available in milk, cheese or swirl), which can be topped with a cheesecake wedge.

There’s also Market Lane coffee, served late until 10pm.

Letao
238 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Hours:
Daily 12pm–10pm

letaoaustralia.com