What comes to mind when you hear the word “fruit parfait”? Yogurt, berries, granola, plastic to-go cups from McD’s or Starbucks, maybe even a healthy option (but who is kidding themselves). If you find yourself wandering the high-fashion streets of Tokyo, you are likely to encounter at least one parfait parlor; but like much of the Western influence found in Japan, the fruit parfait is taken to a whole new level.
Ranging anywhere between a cheap $5 to a shocking $20+ for one parfait, you will be in for a uniquely Japanese treat. So, keep reading to find out which fruit parlors in Tokyo are worth checking out!
The Secret behind a True Japanese Parfait
Even in Japan, some consider the parfait as merely a café dessert; those who think so are likely eating a parfait-like food substance—not the real thing. A true Japanese parfait is not just a dessert, but the art of presentation and luxury. We’re talking about fruit parfaits made with the highest quality, rich milk soft-serve, topped with fruit that sells for 20 times the cost of your local supermarket fare, and gilded with just the right amount of essence of rose jelly.
Sembikiya: The Haute-Couture of Parfaits
Before talking about the Sembikiya parfait you must first understand the fruit company’s status in Japanese culture. The Japanese tradition of giving expensive fruits as gifts for any occasion has gone on for decades, and Sembikiya proudly boasts being the first to have started this tradition in addition to being the oldest fruit shop in Japan.
While you may not have heard the name Sembikiya before, you’ve probably heard tales of Japanese melons from Sembikiya costing anywhere from $100–200; and while you most likely scoffed at the absurd price, you probably also secretly wanted to taste a melon of this stature. Lucky for you, with a Sembikiya parfait you are given the opportunity to taste the “melting sweetness” (as described on their website) without breaking the bank.
The parlor’s menu is mostly seasonally based on fruit availability. While they have their standard fruit parfait that offers a small tasting of their produce, we suggest taking advantage of their seasonal themed parfaits that feature a fruit when it’s in its prime season, such their muscat grape parfait that offers possibly the most intense grape flavor dessert in Tokyo. If making a trip to Sembikiya, we suggest their main parlor located in Nihonbashi, but beware that the lines came sometime be long on weekends.
Sembikiya Fruit Parlor
Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower
2-1-2 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0022
Takano Fruit Parlor: A Perfect Balance of Price & Quality
Another famous and long-standing fruit shop in Japan is the Takano Fruit Parlor. Although still pricey, their desserts are a little more affordable than Sembikiya.
Like Sembikiya, their menu changes depending on the fruits season availability. However, the one fruit parfait that remains the most recommended (or osusume in Japanese) and is available all year round is their Musk Melon Parfait.
The Takano Fruit Parlor can be found all around Tokyo, but because each store’s parfaits vary based on available ingredients, we highly recommend one of the two Takano’s found in Shinjuku named Takano Fruits Parlor Pafério. The larger parlor located on the 5th floor offers a larger variety of sweets along with a buffet, while the basement location on B2 below Gucci (which we also highly recommend) has a slightly more limited menu of smaller parfaits.
Like Sembikiya, Takano also offers an equally delicious melon parfait, but at a much more affordable $12–19 (depending on whether you are ordering from the basement or 5th floor location), which is why we suggest making a trip here for your next melon fix. The 5th floor parfait is layered with muddled musk melon fruit pulp, rich milk soft-serve, whipped cream, Japanese style sour cream (not the kind you put in tacos), musk melon sorbet, and chunks of musk melon. The smaller basement floor parfait offers a layer of muddled melon pulp at the bottom of the glass with melon sauce spread around on the rim before being filled up with amazing semi-sweet soft-serve, topped with one scoop of melon sorbet, and slices and spheres of melon, and finally sprinkled with pearls of rose extract.
Website: www.takano.jp/shinjuku/ (Japenese site)
Takano Fruit Parlor & Fruit Bar
160-0022, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Shinjuku 3-chome 26-11
Note: There are 2 different Parlors at this location. On the 5th floor, there is Takano’s Buffet and Fruit Parlor, while on the B2 floor, there is the cakes & gift shop along with the Fruits Parfait Bar. This location can be found near the East Exit of Shinjuku Station above and below the GUCCI shop.
Kawai Parfaits at Nishimura Fruit Parlor
After a long day of shopping in Shibuya or if you just need a sweets break, swing by Nishimura’s Fruit Parlor for lavishly decorated fruit parfaits. If you’re the type who needs more than 20 options to choose from for dessert, this is the right place for you. If not, good luck, because you’ll probably spend 30 minutes trying to decide what you want to order.
Nishimura’s parlors are famous for their amazingly cute decorated parfaits, so you’ll definitely want to take a selfie or two with it before it melts. But the most exciting part about Nishimura’s Fruit Parlor is the menu. In addition to their ever so large selection of desserts and sweets, they also have additional menus featuring special fruits of the season; all much cheaper than Sembikiya or Takano. Currently it is strawberry season, so many desserts in Tokyo feature the fruit.
Website: www.snfruits.com (Japenese site)
Nishimura Fruit Parlor
150-0042 Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Saint Marc Cafe: The Budget Parfait
So maybe Nishimura, Takano, or Sembikiya Fruit Parlors are a little out of the way or over your budget, and you still want the Japanese parfait experience. If this is the case, we suggest stopping by one of the many Saint Marc Cafés, which can be found all over Tokyo, which have a decent selection of affordable parfaits. The downside is that the parfait is made with frozen fruits, vanilla soft-serve, and condensed milk; the upside is that it still satisfies a craving.
So if you have less than $10 dollars on you, and are okay with settling for a “B-class” fruit parfait, stop by Saint Marc Café. Because they’re all over the city, we can’t give you an address, but just look for their logo.
Making the Most of Your Japanese Parfait Adventure
Some Tokyoites dedicate their culinary exploration solely on the subject of Japanese parfaits, but for Western tourists the locations above are all great places to start your dessert adventure. For us seems that best choice for a first stop is Takano since the presentation and quality balance nicely with the price.
Let us know what you think about our parlor picks. If we missed the boat and there is any even better parfait out there give a comment below!