To me, fruit has always felt so chic. Perhaps that sounds strange but think about everything a perfectly ripe piece of fruit brings — beautiful bright colors, popping on your kitchen counter; luscious juice, bursting forth with every bite; and the adaptability to elevate a dish or be enjoyed all on its own. Each orb of citrus, berry, or drupe feels like a special gift from the earth, a sweet surprise that can both quench your thirst and fill your stomach. My luxurious outlook on fruit has meant, of course, that I have been taken in by expertly branded designer fruit ever since I began grocery shopping for myself. I was all-in when Pom Wonderful introduced its ready-to-eat pomegranate arils, I have converted many of my nearest and dearest into Sumo citrus devotees, and I've even purchased Opal apples simply because I saw others posting photos of them on their Instagram feeds. The marketing and buzz around these high-end fruits always work on me, so when I began hearing about Oishii's Omakase Berry, obviously I had to try it.
In case you're unfamiliar, the Omakase Berry originated in Japan, which is known for its rich culture of high-end fruits. Hiroki Koga first brought the seeds here because he wanted to share the magic of these Japanese strawberries and inspire a similar high regard for quality fruit in America. He founded Oishii, a first-of-its-kind indoor vertical strawberry farm in the U.S., and the artisanal varietal was officially introduced in 2018. While the seeds hail from Japan, the vertical farm is based in New Jersey, which might not scream "high-end fruit" given some people's associations with the state, but those people should stop stigmatizing NJ, and also be aware that the farm is indoors and elements like temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, and wind speed are controlled. Also, I feel it is my duty to take a quick moment to remind everyone that New Jersey is called the Garden State for a reason, so save your eyebrow raises.
After being introduced to the public, the Omakase Berry quickly caught the eye of Michelin-starred chefs around New York City. Then, more mainstream fruit-lovers like me began hearing the buzz on what has repeatedly been called "the Tesla strawberries" from places like Grub Street. According to that article, Oishii recently raised $50 million in series A funding, which it will use to grow the rare fruits at scale. This will help continue the mainstream spread by expanding availability. I also learned that each Omakase Berry costs, at minimum, $5. This fact both made my jaw drop and my mouth water.
If you live in the New York City area, you can get Omakase Berries at a few different locations, if they're not out of stock. Or, you get on a waiting list and have them delivered. Mine arrived at my apartment in a crisp white shopping bag with white fabric handles and Oishii written in red across it. It was the type of sturdy bag one might get after making a purchase at a designer clothing store — well, I'm guessing. It felt chic, which was fitting seeing as I've previously stated that fruit itself is, in my opinion, chic.
Inside the bag sat the carton I'd stared at on Instagram at least once every few days since finding out about the Omakase Berry's existence. Six stunning strawberries sat nestled in cloudy film, and the display conjured up an appropriately luxurious association: a diamond ring perfectly placed in a jewelry box. What a prize. The top of each berry was a deep red that faded beautifully into an orange-y pink — nature's ideal ombre. The pores on the berry's skin flared wide, revealing a multitude of minuscule seeds — a reminder of how this thing I was about to sink my teeth into had come to be. I took my first bite. It tasted like a strawberry.
I don't mean to be diminishing. What I'm trying to say isn't that Omakase Berries tasted like any old strawberry, but rather that it tasted like how strawberries are supposed to taste, but rarely do. They exhibited none of the disgusting drawbacks of an out-of-season berry. They aren't overly mushy, nor do they don't contain an off-putting crunchy core. The outside is crisp, the interior flesh is light and airy, and the flavor, my god, is it so incredibly sweet. You can actually smell how sweet they are when they're sitting on the plate as you wait for them to come to room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes prior to digging in, as is recommended. Anyone with a major sweet tooth who has ever scoffed at the phrase "fruit is nature's candy," should give these a chance, and they'll finally understand why that's a common refrain.
As much as I enjoyed the Omakase Berries, my initial reaction of "these taste like strawberries" is an important one. They tasted like very good strawberries, something of which I, as a fruit fanatic, was absolutely in awe. But, let's not forget they cost $5 each and you can't buy that many at a time. On the other hand, you can easily secure an entire pound of strawberries at a regular grocery store for $5 or less. While those won't taste quite the same as Omakase Berries, if they're in season, they will taste like strawberries. And, you can kick back and mindlessly down a whole bowl of them. It is simply a different experience.
With Oishii's funding, perhaps the price-point of Omakase Berries' may one day become a bit more approachable. For now, though, my recommendation depends entirely on what type of person you are. Will it bring you great joy to bite into a single strawberry that you've waited 10 minutes to eat at the exact right temperature? If yes, it's certainly a fun experience that could be worth investing some money in. If you think this entire concept is ludicrous and you can't believe someone could devote over 800 words to the action of eating a berry, you, my friend, would be better off spending your 5 bucks elsewhere.