Desserts as sweet as the couple who makes them.

Whenever you’re travelling in a big city in Japan and want to discover a local gem that hasn’t been featured in a travel guide, it can pay to talk with the locals. That’s what our reporter Haruka Takagi did on a recent trip to Sakaisuji Honmachi in Osaka, which led her to discover an underground parfait parlour hidden on the second basement floor of an office building.

▼ Sakaisuji Honmachi is a business district in Osaka City.

Surrounded by office buildings and people in suits, Haruka felt out of place in her relaxed casual gear as she walked the streets in the business district. However, she needn’t have worried because she was heading towards an underground haven with a very relaxed vibe, and it was called Fruit Parlor Columbia.

▼ This sign on the street welcomed her, with an arrow that pointed to…

▼ …an office building called Osaka Yamajin.

This was not the entrance she was expecting, but despite being skeptical, she stepped inside and checked the metal plate showing the tenants in the building. Sure enough — there it was, listed on B2 as “フルーツパーラ コロンビア” (“Fruit Parlor Colombia”).

Feeling a flutter of excitement at finding such a hidden local gem, Haruka took the stairs down to the second basement level.

Like the signboard out on the street, the stairwell was lined with similar handmade signage, along with arrows guiding her to the front door, and photos of past customers with their parfaits.

According to the locals she spoke to, Fruit Parlor Columbia has a history of over 40 years and is famous for its jumbo parfaits, some of which can be shared by up to 60 people. The old-timey, homely feel of the signage made her feel like she was heading towards a homey, mum-and-pop style coffee shop, and when she passed through the basement door…

▼ …she felt as if she was stepping back in time to the ’70s!

Haruka had arrived just after 2:00 p.m., after the lunch rush, so when she was guided to a seat by the kind-looking proprietress, she pretty much had the place to herself. As she sat down, she immediately felt the stress and tension from the business district above-ground float away in this quiet oasis.

Though the place sells drinks, cakes and ice cream, the specialty here is big parfaits, so that’s what Haruka ordered, opting for the “Omoitsuki” for one person with a hot coffee on the side, which was priced at 1,800 yen (US$12.03) for the set.

▼ When it arrived, it was waaaay bigger than Haruka could’ve imagined.

It was about three times bigger than she thought it would be, and served in something that looked more like a vase than a parfait glass.

It wasn’t just filled with cream either, as the parfait was heavy to hold. By the looks of things, there was a lot to discover inside this parfait, and helping her to do that was the longest-looking spoon she’d ever seen.

▼ More like a shovel than a spoon.

The size of the parfait made Haruka a little nervous as she worried about whether she would be able to finish it all. She’d thought it would be like a light hike in the hillside for her taste buds, but now she felt like she and her taste buds about to climb a mountain.

▼ Fortunately, she hadn’t had lunch yet, so she was eating on an empty stomach, which gave her more of a fighting chance at finishing it all.

Like taking one step at a time to conquer a mountain, Haruka took things one spoonful at a time, enjoying bites of fruit and cream, followed by mouthfuls of ice cream.

There was a wide variety of ice cream flavours in the parfait, including blackcurrant, pineapple, ramune soda, and chocolate chip, which kept her palette from feeling bored, enabling her to make her way through the dessert with a surprising level of ease.

She came a cross a slight bump in the road when a large banana appeared in the middle of everything, but this didn’t stop her from staying the course as she quickly demolished it with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream.

As she continued to eat the parfait, she realised it was something she would never tire of eating, thanks to the huge variety of ingredients. Other parfaits can sometimes bulk up with just whipped cream and cornflakes, but this one served up a load of different treats, including a square of baked cheesecake.

In the end, the serving size was so big it was a bit of a struggle to finish, but Haruka is happy to say she conquered the parfait mountain, and it was one of the most delicious things she’s ever eaten.

▼ It was more than just a parfait — it was like an amusement park for the taste buds!

Haruka was so impressed by the dessert and the cafe’s longstanding history that she decided to ask the owners more about it when she went to pay the bill. Her first question was why they had chosen to set up their store in the middle of a business district, to which they replied:

“We originally ran a coffee shop in Umeda. It’s been about 20 years since we moved to what is now Sakaisuji Honmachi, and we had been operating in Umeda for about 20 years. When we found this place, it was a spot that was famous for not being able to sustain a store because it was on the second basement floor. We thought, ‘Well, let’s take on the challenge!’ So we moved, and we’ve continued to operate here ever since.”

Haruka: “Your long-time customers must have been surprised by the move. Were you making parfaits at your cafe in Umeda?”

Owners: “Yes. It was actually the first shop in Osaka that started making jumbo parfaits. We attempted to make the world’s biggest parfait, and they just kept getting bigger and bigger until they could serve 60 people. At that time, there weren’t any review sites like there are now, but we had a lot of TV coverage and things like that.”

Haruka: “Judging by the photos and autographs on display here from past customers, it seems like there are a lot of professional, big-time eaters who come to the store. Do you have any tips for making big parfaits?”

Owners: It’s all down to practice. The more you make them, the more you’ll get to know the right balance.”

▼ The parfait Haruka had enjoyed was a perfect example of practice makes perfect, with rice crackers and Pocky sticks used to provide stability and create height.

As for how to order a parfait even bigger than Haruka’s, the owners say:

If you order a parfait for several dozen people, it can’t be carried to the table by one person, so both of us carry it, with one person on each side. We can adjust the parfait to suit your budget and number of people, so please let us know in advance.”

Haruka: “The store is located in an office area, so are most of the customers office workers?”

Owners: “We have a lot of customers who are office workers. We only serve lunch on weekdays, so the busiest time is noon on weekdays. On weekends, the number of parfait customers increases, especially now that we’ve been using social media and people have been recommending us through word-of-mouth, so a lot of people come to see us.”

▼ The lunch menu also looks hearty and delicious.

After speaking with the owners, Haruka received some cute original goods with a caricature of the husband’s face on them, which she thought were very cute.

▼ They were a great way to remember her time with the jumbo parfait and the couple who made them.

The parfait was insanely delicious from the very first bite to the last, so if you’re ever in the mood for a big eat, Fruit Parlor Columbia has you covered. Next time, Haruka plans to go even bigger with her parfait order, to create a mountain of sweets even bigger than Osaka’s two-foot tall parfait!

Store information
Fruit Parlor Columbia / フルーツパーラー コロンビア
Address: Osaka-ken, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Honmachi 1-5-6, Osaka Yamajin Building B2F
大阪府大阪市中央区本町1丁目5−6 大阪山甚ビル B2F
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (lunch time 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.), Saturdays 12:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays, public holidays, New Year ‘s holidays, Obon holidays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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