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Oishii strawberry held by chopsticks. Photo: Oishii

Food & Drink

“Rich mom” strawberries: the hype goes on

The chicest fruit on the internet is now in a store near you—if you live in New York or LA, that is.

When Oishii’s Japanese Omakase strawberries debuted in 2018 they took the culinary—and social media—communities by storm. Expensive, with limited availability, and looking more like jewels than berries, they quickly became a viral sensation. Now the company has a new variety, a (slightly) more affordable price point, wider distribution—and is turning its luxe farming techniques to creating new produce.

Despite—or perhaps because of—a double-take-inducing price tag of around $5 a fruit, Omakases immediately generated buzz with chefs at fine dining establishments. Michelin-starred eateries put them on the menu, some serving them as the finale of decadent multicourse meals, so moved were they by the strawberry’s scent, texture, and flavor. “I knew with my first bite I had found a berry on a different level,” Sushi Ginza Onodera’s head sushi chef told Eater in 2019. Cronut inventor Dominique Ansel created an Omakase Strawberry Sando—strawberries and cream nestled between slices of homemade chiffon bread.

The internet followed suit, with scores of influencers gushing over their qualities, variously describing them as “rich mom strawberries” and “elite fruit.”

 

The berries are sold in trays with each fruit nestled in its own pocket. “The Omakase Berry has a very soft texture, so handle with care, as they can bruise easily,” advises the website. “Treat them the same way you would a carton of eggs.” Photo: Oishii
The berries are sold in trays with each fruit nestled in its own pocket. “The Omakase Berry has a very soft texture, so handle with care, as they can bruise easily,” advises the website. “Treat them the same way you would a carton of eggs.” Photo: Oishii

After expanding production with the opening of an LA farm and an additional facility in New Jersey—the world’s largest indoor vertical strawberry farm—Oishii (which means “delicious” in Japanese) was able to make their berries more affordable and readily available. They are currently stocked primarily at Whole Foods stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and LA and via Fresh Direct, but also via independent stores, most recently at the new Pop Up Grocer in Greenwich Village.

The luxe price point is relatively more palatable—but still an eye-popping $12 for a tray of 11 at Whole Foods (compared to regular brands at $5.99/lb), and $14.99 for 6–8 pieces from Fresh Direct. (The perfect last-minute hostess gift perhaps?)

Building the world's largest vertical strawberry farm, in New Jersey, increased production by 100 times, allowing Oishii to make their berries more readily available—and at a lower price. The company plans to open farms in new markets. Photo: Oishii
Building the world's largest vertical strawberry farm, in New Jersey, increased production by 100 times, allowing Oishii to make their berries more readily available—and at a lower price. The company plans to open farms in new markets. Photo: Oishii

It takes a couple of fruitless visits to my local Whole Foods before I finally spot the Omakases. There’s a small group of shoppers hovering over them, stopping the flow of traffic through the aisle. It’s easy to see why they’re enchanted. Shelved alongside the average strawberries, the comparison is stark: Oishii’s variety are a more vibrant ruby, evenly sized, and appear almost cartoonish in their perfection, sitting individually in their trays like little Valentines. (“They look as  though each one had their own caregiver”, raved one devotee on Instagram. Bethenny Frankel, TikTok’s latest fan, described them as snuggling “in a berry bassinet.”)

Shelved alongside the average strawberries, the comparison is stark: Oishii’s variety are a more vibrant ruby, evenly sized, and appear almost cartoonish in their perfection, sitting individually in their trays like little Valentines.

 

The first thing I notice after opening the box is the aroma—and I’m not alone: “Oh my god, the smell is crazy,” one tester enthused. The texture is super soft, with no resistance; the fruit intensely but not overpoweringly sweet. Given the kind of bland, tasteless fruit we’re used to, this was a revelation. I finally understood Toni Morrison’s observation about the fruit: “I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer—its dust and lowering skies.”

In Japanese, Omakase is a traditional dining philosophy,
In Japanese, Omakase is a traditional dining philosophy, "I leave it up to you," where a diner entrusts a chef to serve them something great. Koyo means “elated”. Photo by Jennelle Fong

Most online reviews are positive, and even among those of the view that they’re not worth the price there’s a general consensus that these are reliable fruits, less hit-or-miss than typical, tasting like the best strawberries in any bunch. Indoor farming also ensures that they’re ripe year round.

Oishii’s newest variety, the Koyo strawberry, debuted in February—billed as the firmer, heartier alternative to the Omakase’s creamy sweetness. They have a seedier texture and—at least to me—taste sweeter. Not usually a strawberry fan, I find myself eating them in the same manner in which one eats popcorn.

As for what’s next from Oishii, the company remains tight-lipped on specifics, simply teasing “new fruits and produce” in development. Million-dollar melons, perhaps?

Hero image: Oishii berry. Photo: Oishii

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