You’ve heard of cheesecake, now get ready for the cheese tart.

The cheese tart is a testament to Japan’s long-held reputation for adapting and refining foreign products. Neither cheese—a well-loved dairy product in Japan—nor tarts have ever been part of traditional Japanese cuisine, yet the Japanese have managed to create this pastry that has become all the rage in East and Southeast Asia in the last two years.

Best enjoyed freshly baked and warm (although, of course, you can also enjoy them chilled, frozen, or reheated), these tarts are a delight to the senses. Not only do they have a pleasant, comforting aroma (as most freshly baked goods do), but they also delight your taste buds with their contrasting tastes and textures. Mildly sweet with a hint of salty, the cheese tart consists of a crumbly, buttery crust and a rich, gooey filling of cheese.

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Close up Japanese Cheese Tart on white plate
Photo by Helmi

The cheese tart craze started in the late 2000s or early 2010s in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture and the producer of most of Japan’s local milk and cheese, and somehow spread to neighboring Asian countries. Hokkaido-made dairy products are regarded as being of top-notch quality, so cheese tart outlets that started in Hokkaido and/or use ingredients from the region often emphasize their origins to assure customers of their quality. It’s even gotten to the point that Japanese-style cheese tarts are referred to as Hokkaido cheese tarts in some countries!

If you want to find out whether they’re worth the hype and the long lines, here are some Tokyo cheese tart shops to check out. Note that this is not an exhaustive list; small neighborhood cafes and bakeries, as well as some branches of bakery chains like Vie de France, may also have cheese tarts on the menu.

1. Bake

Hokkaido Cheese Tart
Photo by D JAN

With roots in—no surprise here—Hokkaido, Bake is the catalyst that sparked the cheese tart craze. As such, this chain, which has several branches in and outside Japan, is one of two names that usually come to mind when people speak of cheese tarts. Long lines tend to form in front of its stalls, of which there are 10 (as of this writing) in and near Tokyo—at Ikebukuro Station, Lumine Est Shinjuku, Jiyugaoka, Kita-senju, Tachikawa, and Gransta Marunouchi, among others.

If you were to try just one brand of cheese tart, this would be it. Bake’s cheese tarts (¥216 per piece; ¥1,242 for a box of six) are not sickeningly sweet; the sweetness is quite mild. The filling is a fluffy cheese mousse made of three different kinds of cream cheese, and the crispy crust is baked twice.

Bake Cheese Tart (Shinjuku branch)
Address: 1/F Lumine Est, Shinjuku 3-38-1, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shinjuku Station
Phone: 03-5925-8170
Business Hours: Weekdays 11:00 am-10:00 pm | Weekends 10:30 am-9:30 pm

Bake Cheese Tart (Ikebukuro branch)
Address: Outside the central ticket gates, inside Ikebukuro Station, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-2, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ikebukuro Station
Phone: 03-5956-4580
Business Hours: 10:00 am-10:00 pm

Bake Cheese Tart (Gransta Marunouchi branch)
Address: B1F Tokyo Station (outside the ticket gates), Tokyo Station, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Access: Tokyo Station
Phone: 03-6259-1866
Business Hours: 8:00 am-10:00 pm (Monday-Saturday and holidays) |  8:00 am-9:00 pm (Sunday and days before holidays)

2. Pablo

Competing with Bake for the title of Japan’s best cheese tart is not a Hokkaido-based chain, but one that hails from Osaka—Pablo. (It still uses ingredients from Hokkaido, though.) Your mileage might vary – some people are on Team Bake, while some are on Team Pablo. Like Bake, it has several branches in Japan and overseas. In Tokyo, it has branches in Shinjuku, Omotesando, and Akihabara, among others. Some offer everything on the menu and even provide space for customers to sit down and eat, while others are just stalls. Also, some stalls – like one of the Akihabara branches—just sell mini-tarts.

Pablo’s signature cheese tart (¥850) is not a small, bite-sized one like Bake’s; rather, with a diameter of 15 cm, it’s good for sharing. You can choose whether you want the filling to be “rare” (gooey) or “medium” (slightly firmer). To top things off, the top layer of the tart is coated with a fruity glaze.

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Hokkaido cheese tarts
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Unlike Bake, which only sells one type of cheese tart, Pablo offers variety. Its mini-cheese tarts (¥200 a piece for regular-flavored ones; ¥230¥300 for seasonal and other flavors) are a recent addition to the menu, and it has seasonal and limited-edition flavors such as matcha (green tea) and strawberry. One variant, the premium cheese tart (¥1,706) has a crême brûlée-like layer on top.

In addition to cheese tarts, Pablo also offers other sweets such as pudding and cookies; some branches also have drinks—and in case you ever wanted to enjoy a cheese tart in drink form, they have a cheese tart smoothie (¥600).

Pablo Cafe Omotesando
Address: Jingumae 1-14-21, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: Harajuku or Meiji-jingumae Station
Phone: 03-3478-0826
Business Hours: 10:00 am-9:00 pm

Pablo (Akihabara branch)
Address: Kanda Sakumacho 1-6-5, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Access: Akihabara Station
Phone: 03-3252-8260
Business Hours: 11:00 am-9:00 pm

Pablo (Shinjuku branch)
Address: B2F Metro Shokudo-gai, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-2, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shinjuku Station
Phone: 03-5381-0826
Business Hours: 11:00 am-10:00 pm

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3. Cheese Craft Works

Also hailing from Osaka is Cheese Craft Works, where—as the name implies—you can find all sorts of dishes with cheese on the menu. They’ve got cheesy appetizers, main dishes, and desserts—fondue, raclette, four-cheese risotto and, of course, cheese tarts. Their best-selling tart is the three-cheese tart (¥248 a piece), which is made with three kinds of cream cheese and almond bits. Their other variant is the three-cheese brûlée tart (¥270 a piece), which, like Pablo’s premium cheese tart, has caramelized sugar on top. They’re also available in boxes of six for ¥1,404. Note that it’s pricier to order cheese tarts from the dine-in menu, as they’re served a la mode—the regular three-cheese tart costs ¥464, while the brûlée tart costs ¥486.

Cheese Craft Works currently has three branches in Tokyo.

Cheese Craft Works (Diver City Tokyo Plaza branch)
Address: 2F Diver City Tokyo Plaza, Aomi 1-1-10, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Access: Tokyo Teleport or Daiba Station
Phone: 03-6426-0451
Business Hours: 10:00 am-10:00 pm

Cheese Craft Works (Parco Ikebukuro branch)
Address: 8F Parco Main Building, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-2, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ikebukuro Station
Phone: 03-6812-1899
Business Hours: 11:00 am-11:00 pm

Cheese Craft Works (Kichijoji branch)
Address: 3F Ebisu Kaikan, Honmachi 1-9-12, Musashino City, Tokyo
Access: Kichijoji Station
Phone: 0422-27-1853
Business Hours: 11:30 am-11:00 pm

4. Boul’Mich (Ikebukuro branch)

Photo by Tiffany Lim

Although this patisserie has a number of branches in Tokyo, its cheese tart (¥216) is exclusive to its stall in east Ikebukuro’s Seibu department store. While not made with ingredients from Hokkaido, it’s still just as delicious, and it’s still made of quality ingredients (Kiri, a popular French brand of cream cheese).

Address: B1F, Seibu Ikebukuro Main Building, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-1, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ikebukuro Station
Phone: 03-5949-5083
Business Hours: 10:00 am-9:00 pm

5. Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm Milk Kobo

Takahashi Dairy Farm is well-known in Niseko, an area in Hokkaido that’s known for its powder snow. The farm operates a shop called Milk Kobo, where you can buy their dairy products, as well as sweets and desserts such as soft-serve ice cream and cheese tarts. You no longer have to travel all the way to Niseko to try their products, as they opened a branch in Tokyo’s Kichijoji in late 2016. At this shop, cheese tarts are ¥230 per piece and ¥1,380 for a box of six.

Address: Honmachi 1-8-3, Kichijoji, Musashino City, Tokyo
Access: Kichijoji Station
Phone: 0422-27-2723
Business Hours: 10:00 am-8:30 pm

6. Convenience stores

Photo by Tiffany Lim

This author once saw an ad in FamilyMart that sums it up concisely: “We won’t lose to cheese tart specialty shops.” It shouldn’t be a surprise that Japan’s major convenience store chains would also want a slice of the pie (er, cheese tart?), since cheese tarts are all the rage. FamilyMart, 7-11, and Lawson occasionally (yes, occasionally—note that they’re not offered all year round) sell their own cheese tarts, all of which cost below ¥200 — FamilyMart’s, for instance, costs ¥158. They may not be warm or freshly baked, but if you’re looking for cheapo cheese tarts, they’ve got you covered. Taste-wise, they’re not bad, either, although the filling isn’t as rich and the texture isn’t as gooey. At times, they also release variants such as matcha-flavored cheese tarts. As far as value for money is concerned, you’ve got no reason to complain; convenience-store cheese tarts are still fairly yummy and slightly cheaper than those of the specialty shops.

Got more of a sweet tooth? Try these Japanese wagashi (confectionery) shops in Tokyo

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