We love Japanese food, from sushi to soba, it’s always been one of our favourite cuisines. However some of our dining forays in Japan have gone beyond our taste buds – they were an experience. Themed restaurants are a big thing in Tokyo, and during our short week in the capital city, we visited two of them.
Kawaii Monster Café
4-31-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
(Chiyoda or Fukutoshin lines to Meiji-Jingumae Station)
Open 11:30am to 11:30pm; most family-friendly during the early afternoon.
No reservations needed.
This restaurant is located on the 4th floor of a packed street in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighbourhood, which in itself is a destination for all things cool and fashionable. We took a long escalator ride to the top and found the café hidden behind a large set of double-doors. After getting the number of our party, the hostess dramatically threw open these doors to reveal an explosion of bright bubblegum colours splashed over every surface, from floor to ceiling. The décor is right out of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – huge cupcakes, oogly-eyed monsters, and cotton-candy clouds.
The menu was of a similar palette: most of the food options were fun and colourful, like rainbow spaghetti and French fries with multicoloured dips. The hot food tasted fine, but the desserts were really fabulous. This might have been a better place to come for drinks and dessert after eating our main meal elsewhere.
We visited the Monster Café with our new friends from the cruise ship, the Rowlands (making new friends is another reason cruising is better than flying). Much fun was had all around. Our “monster” hosts were pretty girls in sparkling wigs and cute monster outfits. They later performed a dance show amid strobe lights on a rotating stage in the centre of the restaurant. The food was not cheap, but worth the price of admission to this crazy, trippy place.
2-14-3, Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyu plaza Akasaka 1F
(Ginza or Marunouchi lines to Akasaka Mitsuke Station)
Open 5:00pm to 1:00am (doors close at 10:30pm); no kids allowed after 7:00pm
We set out to the ninja restaurant on a rainy evening after booking a spot several days in advance. There were six of us – Roman and myself, the boys, and Roman’s parents who had been traveling in China, and met up with us for two weeks in Japan for the tail-end of their trip. Because we were a larger group, we were asked to order from the set menu beforehand. We ordered four adult tasting courses at 5700 yen each, and two kids’ courses at 3500 yen each. In terms of cost, this themed restaurant is equivalent to a four-star dining experience. It is far outside our usual food budget, but we decided to splurge for the unique experience.
We had some trouble finding the place in the dark and the rain, but finally made it to a nondescript set of black doors and huddled inside a small room. As with the Monster Café, we first spoke to a hostess behind a desk with the restaurant hidden from view. Suddenly, a ninja jumped down from the rafters and landed with a thud right next to us. This was our ninja-waiter for the evening. Motioning for us to follow, he opened a hidden door, and all six of us trailed him into the darkness. We had to duck our heads and sneak through a hidden tunnel, up a dark, narrow staircase, over a drawbridge which the ninja summoned, and down again into the dining area. We walked through a labyrinth of small dining nooks until we reached our own. As we settled into our seats, our ninja began to bring out the food, course by course.
We had pâté on shuriken-shaped crackers, gazpacho, nigiri sushi, a hot-pot soup that the ninja prepared table-side by dropping a sizzling stone into the broth…the courses just kept coming, small bowls and saucers of amazing food. We had come to the ninja restaurant for the kids, to have a bit of fun with the ninja theme, but us adults ended up enjoying our meals tenfold.
We ended the ninja feast with a fluffy, melt-on-the-tip-of-your-tongue sorbet. Even more impressively, the kids’ desserts came in black boxes full of dry ice which poured from the edges like magical mist.
As our meal drew to a close, our ninja introduced us to the great Master Ninja, who performed “ninja magic” right at the edge of our table. My first thought was not another magic show – since leaving Calgary, we have seen five separate magic shows (one in Las Vegas, three on our cruise ship, and one more in Tokyo’s Edo Museum). Let me tell you, this Master Ninja blew my mind.
The ninja restaurant was a deliciously memorable experience, and I believe I enjoyed it at least as much as the children (possibly even more so).
24-8, 1F, Leisure Plaza Bld., Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku
Open 11:00am to 12:00am
No reservations, but large parties may be difficult to seat
Theme-restaurants aside, one of our favourite places to eat in Tokyo was Genki Sushi. This casual eatery was located in Shibuya, another happenin’ neighbourhood close to our airbnb (Shibuya Crossing boasts the most crowded intersection in the world). Genki Sushi is a different take on the conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. Each seat has its own tablet where you can select your food, and each dish will come zooming out on a track and miraculously stop right in front of your chair. After taking your food, you push a button to send the little tray zipping back down the track and into the kitchens. This place was great because the sushi was cheap, ordering was super easy and fun, and it had a nice selection of both sushi and other food (like udon soups, French fries, desserts). In terms of quality, you could definitely find fresher and fancier fare somewhere else, but we loved Genki Sushi for the novelty, the price, and the ease of ordering.