I may have eaten rather well at breakfast, lunch and dinner times in Tokyo but don’t think for a second that it was all class, style and Michelin-stars. Tokyo wouldn’t be Tokyo if its restaurant scene didn’t have its tongue firmly in cheek. Of the many, many themed dining spots in the Japanese capital, I went to the three that most piqued my interest. Enjoy, and embrace the insanity (if not the culinary offerings) of these three themed restaurants in Tokyo.
A newbie on the bat-sh!t-crazy ‘kawaii’ (cute) scene in Japan, this ‘cafe’ is far bigger than its moniker suggests. If you arrive at its evening opening time of 6pm, you’ll be queuing alongside relatively normal-looking Japanese women in their twenties and greeted by impeccably dressed kawaii monsters. On the Kawaii Monster Cafe menu, you’ll find pub food with novelty twists. My chips (adventurous, I know; but it was all I could stomach after one too many octopus balls at lunch) came with chilli ketchup, extra strong mustard, some pretty hideously processed cheese sauce, spicy wasabi and blue sour cream. All worryingly fluorescent; but props for making it match the decor.
Little tip: If you want a table, avoid the queues by arriving at 6.
Where to find it: Harajuku, obviously. Where else? More specifically, it’s on the 4th floor of the YM Square shopping centre, right on the main strip. Unmissable.
Prison/hospital/dining establishment Alcatraz ER is kind of difficult to find, but so worth it. Like lots of the kookier eateries in Tokyo, you’ll feel like you’re walking into a dodgy carpark stairwell. Where this differs, however, is that it doesn’t suddenly transform into a pristine establishment. Blood is smeared all over the walls, there are body parts and traces of surgical implements scattered all around, and you’re greeted by a screeching host.
Little tip: I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but make sure you turn up and are seated before 7:30. At 8pm every night, something happens… Hold on tightly to your human skull drinking vessel, chaps.
And finally, Shinjuku’s renowned Robot Restaurant. Misleading nomenclature aside, what this place lacks in, well, being a restaurant, it makes up for with its absolutely mental robots. Arrive early to have a sake in the foyer as a Daft Punk-esque robot serenades you with instrumental renditions of old romantic classics. Once the surreality dies down, it’s strangely beautiful and calming. God, I sound like a pillock; but my dinner dates for the evening both said the same. Oh Japan, you just do you, and you do it so well.
Little tip: Buy your tickets online so you get a discount. And if you need an equally batty but totally different experience once the robots and their scantily clad mistresses have turned in for the night, head to nearby ex-residential now-pub-laden street, Golden Gai. Sink a whisky in the minuscule Bar Albatross, with its three floors and maximum capacity of… 15 people. N’awwww.
Where to find it: This is huge and unmissable, once you’re on the right street. Head to Kabukicho in Shinjuku, and you’ll see it.