Japan knows how to eat…in some pretty cool surroundings.
One of my favorite things about Japan is the themed restaurants, like the Kawaii Monster Café or the Pokemon Café. They have something for your inner nerd. Vampires, Ninjas, Anime, Video Games, Robots, Fishing, Haunted Houses, Sumo, and so much more! So many adventures! I haven’t been to all of them yet, but I am making a go of it… one dinner at a time.
I have been to Zauo (the fish for your dinner restaurant), Alice in Wonderland, Ninja, two Final Fantasy Cafés, and the Robot Restaurant.
I believe that for a themed restaurant to be decent they need to meet three qualifications: good food, creative style, and fun entertainment. You should feel like you have really entered that universe.
Zauo – Yokohama
This is a chain; they are everywhere.
Zauo is a fun place! You enter a huge warehouse to find a gigantic boat in the center of the room. The boat is the main eating area, though there are tables along the wall, and a series of private “party” rooms in the back. Surrounding the boat is a ring of water full of fish. There are two kinds of fish swimming freely and a bunch of shellfish, flat fish, and other edible sea creatures in netted pools along the edge.
You don’t have to catch your meal, but you should. How fun! There are a couple of ways to fish for your dinner: in the free swim pool, you are to use a small fishing pole with a regular hook baited with mini-shrimp. In the netted pools, you don’t need bait, you use a four-prong hook to snag the creatures.
We chose to use bait for the free swimming fish, and we got there a little early for dinner in Japan. The fish needed to warm up to being caught by us, but once the bites started happening, it was almost impossible not to hear the obligatory “ceremonial rhythmic hand clapping” every few minutes. The fish were fighting for attention!
Additional Reading: Hakone Day Trip From Tokyo
When you catch a two-sided fish, you have a few options as to how it will be served: sashimi, sushi, grilled, steamed, and deep fried. There were four in our group, so we decided to catch two fish (it turned out that we caught two of the same kind, which we think was the Yellow Jack) and have fish 4 ways – grilled, steamed, fried, and sushi. I think we decided that we liked the steamed and fried the best.
My review of Zauo:
Food: Pretty good, but pricey.
Style: Great. The old boat, the fish, and they even had a window to the fish chef’s station, so you could watch him clean and prepare your meal.
Entertainment: AWESOME. I mean, mostly we entertained ourselves, but we were fishing for our dinner! And the hand clapping cheer was just hilarious.
Alice in Wonderland
There are five different Alice restaurants in Tokyo (and one in Osaka). Ginza is the original, but I’ve heard Shinjuku is pretty amazing. The Alices are run by Diamond Dining, who also own Vampire and Arabian Nights.
We went for a birthday party with a pretty big group. Each person was required to order the set menu (Y3000) and a drink. The meal started with an “eat me” tiny pumpkin croissaint and ended with a “drink me” cup of tea. We had five dinner courses, including Malificent’s steak – it was around Halloween when we went; and two dessert courses. The Chesire Cat birthday cake was really fun as well.
My review of Alice:
Style: Well decorated. There were tea cups hanging from the ceiling and the food was styled to represent Alice and other Disney characters.
Entertainment: While they had a few gimmicks, there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment. I have heard that you get more of a “show” if you go to other Alices.
Ninja is so much fun, they have so much ninja-style they don’t even have a front door. You have to wait at the reception desk for a ninja to come through the secret passage to let you in. So. Freaking. COOL.
After the ninja leads you through the secret passageway, you are led through a ninja village that is under attack from the evil ninjas, and eventually you escape to the restaurant.
I’m not sure how Ninja would describe its cuisine, but I’m going to go with Asian-European-fusion. We ordered the “Tasting Menu” for Y5700 each. It included such delights as Shuriken star-blades and Stone-boiled soup. It was fun just eating, but of course, while you enjoyed your food, or waited for your stone to boil your next course, a ninja arrives to do Ninja-magic for you.
I need to go back, I enjoyed it so much.
My review of Ninja:
Food: Confusing, but delicious. Also, a bit pricey.
Style: One word: Ninjas.
Entertainment: I’m going to be honest, there were a few pretty good magic tricks, and the escape was just fantastic. Such fun!
What to Eat in Japan Food Guide
Japanese Soba – Buckwheat Festival
The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly – Japanese Animal Cafes
Lunch at the Pokemon Cafe
How to Visit Tsukiji Market
The Square Enix Café- Shinjuku, Tokyo
I have a special place in my heart for Square Enix video games, especially the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series. This café is a bit of a walk from the nearest station, but worth it. The food is all themed by different Square Enix games and is very good. I stuck to the Final Fantasy creations, and had delicious pancakes and a parfait.
My review of Artnia:
Food: Good and cute, and mostly affordable.
Style: Very minimalist, mostly white, but the store is cool.
Entertainment: Shopping, which is ok since it usually takes a bit of a wait to get one of the 10 tables.
Final Fantasy XIV Eorzea Café
Honestly, this is one of my favorite places to go and I’ve already been twice. I love visiting Akihabara anyway, but when they opend Eorzea I was very excited. Eorzea Café is run by Pasela. Pasela has a few different themed restuarants as well, including an Anime one and a Tiki bar. Pasela is known for the honey toast, a block of bread with honey. So of course I tried the Moogle Honey Bread the first time I visited.
Eorzea is designed after a tavern in Final Fantasy XIV’s Eorzea, the land that the game takes place in. It looks just like the taverns with it’s stained glass and flags. It is also decorated with many of the weapons from the game.
All of the food is themed after characters, jobs, monsters, and potions. It is my nerdy-heaven. The food is amazing, adorable, and affordable. And, they do special themed menus, to keep you coming back! The last time we went was just a few weeks ago, when the new Heavensward content was being released in the game, so we got to see the special menu and drinks.
Eorzea was originally meant to be a short-term pop-up, but made so much money it has now been open for a year. It is almost always fully booked. It is possible to make reservations though, which is helpful.
My review of Eorzea Café:
Entertainment: Oh! I forgot, they also have 4 or 5 computers set so you can log in and play the game while you wait for your dinner to come!
Their claim to fame is that they are rated #4 on Trip Advisor for things to do in Shinjuku – by foreigners. Yeah, not many locals go to this, unless they are bringing foreigners.
The show lasts about an hour and a half and costs Y7000 (though you can find a Y1000 coupon almost anywhere) and you can get a bento box of sushi for an additional Y1000. It is not known for the food, so much so that we actually just waited to eat until after the show. We did order a soda and some popcorn. It was fine.
I don’t really have the words to describe this experience. Loud. Bright. Confusing? Mostly it was a lot of over stimulation. Even the waiting room was an adventure, completely decorated in shiny surfaces and all the colors. The bathroom was terrifying. You just don’t need to see that many of yourself while peeing.
It was an experience…
My review of Robot:
Food: I don’t have an opinion, we didn’t eat there.
Style: I wouldn’t call it “style.”
Entertainment: Well, that is what you are there for, and the show had lots going on.
There are still a few themed restaurants that I’d like to get to, especially Lock-Up and Halloween at Vampire.
What are your favorite themed restaurants?