You may have tried a number of parfaits at various green tea purveyors in Singapore, but if you’re headed to Japan then be prepared for an onslaught of incredibly creative parfaits.
The Japanese parfait has truly evolved into its very own modern ‘king of desserts’ – imagine a mixture of mochi rice cakes, glazed fruit, soft cream, or green tea jelly stacked over a handful of cornflakes. It’s not difficult to find over-the-top varieties that include cookies, waffles, or even whole cakes, some artfully stacked so high that they defy gravity. It’s no wonder they’re popular Instagram stars.
Tokyo is home to numerous places where you can get your hands on picturesque parfait. Situated in the fashion district of Harajuku, Tsurukamero is a restaurant that serves traditional Japanese fare (sashimi, tempura, etc) and, of course, parfaits. Their Bonsai Parfaits (¥800) look too gorgeous to eat and comes in three varieties: chocolate, matcha, and berry banana. Each parfait is presented like a piece of bonsai art, complete with a sprig of mini pine tree branch. The matcha parfait comes with a taiyaki (fish-shaped red bean bun) and a red bean ice cream stick.
Okayama is nicknamed ‘City of Fruit Parfaits’ thanks to over 50 establishments, including Kurashiki Momoko, offering creative fruit parfaits made with generous helpings of seasonal fruits. Located in a 150-year-old traditional Japanese house in the Bikan Historical Quarter, their extensive parfait menu is seasonal. Prices range from ¥756 for a Chocolate Banana parfait, to ¥2,700 for their Summer and Autumn specials. Not to be missed is the White Strawberry Parfait (¥2,376), available from December to May, which is generously topped with rare white strawberries.
Cafe Fusha (Windmill Cafe) has three outlets that serve western food alongside its very extensive menu of parfaits. Boasting up to 50 varieties, their exquisitely-designed parfaits come with a huge variety of toppings ranging from chocolate (¥820) and fresh fruits to houjicha (¥860), and even cake slices (¥900)! Look out for their Instagram-worthy jumbo parfaits, which is a gigantic bowl of parfait measuring 30cm high and 30cm wide, topped with three cones of parfait surrounded by more ice cream.
Kyoto is the best place to sample original matcha parfait using quality Uji green tea. Ito Kyuemon Uji has a branch at JR Uji Station with a cafe called Sabo serving a wide variety of matcha parfaits. Their original Uji Green Tea Parfait (¥780) includes green tea jelly, shiratama dumplings, and red bean paste. You can upgrade to a decadent Uji Green Tea Roll (¥980) which is topped with a matcha roll cake, or indulge in their limited-availability seasonal specials like the Sakura Parfait (¥1,180) in spring.
In Sapporo’s nightlife district of Susukino, people eat parfaits after a night of drinking. Named ‘shime parfait’ – or ‘parfait to finish up’ – the city’s parfait shops are now part of their nightlife culture.
Parfait Shop Nanakamadou is part of shime parfait chain – including Parfeteria MiL, Parfeteria miL, and Parfeteria beL – that serves glasses of incredibly photogenic parfaits made with local ingredients, creating a medley of flavours from bitter to sweet. There is no fixed menu but each parfait is a feast for the eyes; they are known for parfaits designed with an empty space in the middle of a tall glass.
For an interesting take on parfait, try the Kaga Parfait – a five-layer parfait made using local Kaga vegetables like sweet potato, cucumber, eggplant, radish and squash. There are 16 guidelines to follow in order to be certified as ‘Kaga Parfait’, and only six stores in Kaga serve them. Each store’s version (¥880 yen) uses different ingredients, but all are served on locally-made lacquerware tray and Kutani plate with Kaga stem tea.