The dancing flavours of Shiro Gelato

The dancing flavours of Shiro Gelato

Shiro Gelato is like a tiny part of Japan dropped into a little shop in Nerang Street, Southport.

Shiro is home to some of our favourite Japanese creations: the elastic texture of freshly made mochi, and the smooth, unmistakable flavours of matcha and black sesame gelato. Combined together, they form dessert heaven, Daifuku.

Shiro is the brainchild of Kei Okamoto and her partner, Nori Fukuhara. You may have met the couple selling Japanese food such as taiyaki (fish-shaped jaffles) at markets around the Gold Coast, or in their Shiro food truck at music festivals and sporting events.

Opening their first shop in September 2023, the couple have put their four years’ experience in hospitality to good use. Located just outside the Southport light rail station, Shiro Gelato is in easy reach of the centre of our CBD.

Using imported ingredients from Japan such as matcha and rice, their products are authentically Japanese and yet they have kept things simple. They completed most of their shop fit out themselves. Because of limited seating in the small space, Shiro Gelato runs a limited menu of specialty dishes and drinks, mostly to return customers to take away.

“Our goal is to introduce Japanese snack foods to an Australian audience,” owner Kei tells me. “Yes, we do have some Japanese clients, but we are not primarily aiming at them. We want to bring a little bit of Japanese culture to Australia,” she adds. It’s a great reason to use both Japanese and English descriptions on items, all in the name of cultural awareness.

At present, Shiro specialises in only a few foods. Firstly, and most familiar to Gold Coast residents, there’s a range of gelato flavours, some made using either Japanese products such as the smooth Uji-grown matcha (green tea) from Kyoto (the store’s most popular flavour), yuzu (Japanese citrus) and lemon, hojicha (another Japanese tea-based product), Hokkaido vanilla, or miso caramel, or local Australian products such as lychees.     

The shop’s name, Shiro, means “white” in Japanese. It could reference both vanilla gelato and the store’s second product, mochi, a Japanese rice cake made from a special type of short-grain glutinous rice usually mixed with water, sugar, and cornstarch. Mochi is one of the oldest Japanese desserts, its history dating back to the 6th century.

To make mochi, steamed rice is pounded into paste and molded into an opaque elastic shape of choice. In Shiro, squares of Warabi Mochi are sold separately in boxes: kinako, a roasted soybean flour flavour, black sesame, matcha white chocolate, miso caramel, and yuzu and lemon.

And then there is Shiro’s main hero dish: Daifuku. Thin sheets of mochi are hand-wrapped around a scoop of gelato with a couple of mochi squares skewered on top. The result is your own delicious freshly made bespoke dessert, my favourite being either matcha or black sesame gelato served as the Shiro Lover with a few pieces of Warabi Mochi on top. The texture is fascinating, the flavour hypnotically smooth. Heaven in a tub!

On the savoury side, Shiro sells onigiri, the popular Japanese rice ball snack made with rice from the Tohoku region of Japan. Mothers make onigiri for their children to eat for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or any time in between.

Looking like little men in winter coats with hats of different colours, the rice balls are wrapped in salted seaweed with your choice of five tasty traditional fillings: chicken mince and marinated egg, greens and mustard pickle, tuna or salmon with mayo, cod roe and mayo or shallots, miso and citrus chilli paste.

For even more matcha, sodas, shakes and lattes are also served in a range of flavours to accompany your food.

You will be tempted by the niche décor items, ‘objets d’art’, fashion accessories and jewellery on sale at the back of the store, all from famous Japanese artisan designers. There are gorgeous necklaces and pendants, even one with Sakura’s paper crane in gold.

Shiro Gelato’s shop in Southport is the first of several. The next store will be opening in Brisbane CBD this month and a third in Morningside a few months later. In the meantime, catch the light rail to visit this little corner of Japanese yumminess for yourself. If Daifuku doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what will!

Shiro Gelato & Snack, 50 Nerang St, Southport, QLD Ph: 0430 099 975 Open daily from 11.30am – 10pm
Open daily from 11.30am – 10pm
50 Nerang St, Southport QLD 4215