Thursday, August 5, 2010

Enjoying the beauty of the Japanese cuisine, or not; The Top Three of the Worst Theme Restaurants in Tokyo

If you ask anyone who has been to Japan what they enjoyed the most, I'm sure that the food will be mentioned somewhere in there pretty high up in the ranking. Anyone who has experienced a full course traditional Kaiseki dinner will have marveled at the beauty and new flavours that the chefs have brought out. Or why not a teppanyaki course with Kobe beef (those cows who sleep on water beds, drink beer and receive daily massage; they live a better life than most of us, up to a point...).

But even on a modest budget you can get great tempura, tonkatsu, a wide range of noodles and so the list goes on and on. But hey! Screw all that, if you really want to see what modern Tokyo is all about you should go to a theme restaurant! So without further interruption, I proudly introduce my own, very biased ranking of the top three theme restaurants in Tokyo!

3. Christon Cafe

This restaurant slash bar labels itself as "the restaurant that looks like a church" and is decorated with statues of the virgin Mary, crosses, gargoyles, statues of saints and areas which looks like small shrines. If you happen to be a person of faith, maybe this is not the place to go, but for a heathen like me, I find it quite amusing to eat and get a little wasted on reasonable beer and cocktails in a place that very much looks like what it is; a Japanese persons impression of what a European church looks like. Quite sacrilegious, but I am sure that it was not designed to offend anyone, just some guys and gals who actually enjoyed the image of a church and thought "this would be a great setting to eat and drink in". However, the menu is not particularly thematic at all, mostly a standard selection of cross-cooking, but this prevents it from getting higher on this list.

2. The Lock-Up

Of the theme restaurant chains in Japan, this is the grand old man and goes for a classic "monster/dungeon" theme. Not only has quite a lot of effort gone into the decoration of the place, but they also have a "happening time" every two hours or so when the lights go out, a siren plays and some people in badly made monster masks run around and jump into the rooms to try and scare the poor guests. Not to mention how you are greeted by a girl dressed as a police in a mini-skirt handcuffs you when you enter before she leads you to your seat/dungeon. As you might have guessed, the food is functional but nothing to write home about, but the drinks are quite interesting. With creative names such as "human experiment" or "electro therapy" and served in beakers, syringes and other creative vessels of serving drinks in.

1. Alcatraz

My favorite and the greatest of them all. Think The Lock-up, but much seedier and more gritty, without the cartoon flair of the former. The restaurant is not part of a chain and has its only restaurant located in Shibuya, right in the middle of the famous "love hotel hill" with all the sex shops and love hotels just next to it. The theme of the restaurant is basically that of a prison hospital out of a horror movie and they have divided the restaurant into areas such as the Intensive Care Unit, the Surgery ward etc. True to the location, they also have a bit of a suggestive theme going (it's hardly anything to be excited about, but maybe the small children should stay at home) with the waitresses wearing more or less "sexy" nurse outfits but so badly executed that it's more funny than anything else. Like the lock-up they too have a "happening time" with some "doctor" dude running in and some nurses doing a so-bad-it's-just-silly dance routine. The food is actually even worse than that of the Lock-up and I fondly remember the properly named "penis-sausage" and drinks are, like in the Lock-up, served in creative vessels. This all combined safely secures Alcatraz top position as the best of the worst of the Tokyo theme restaurants!

So yeah, if you for some reason want to down prioritize good food and go for an interesting experiences now you are well equipped to go ahead! Leave all sense of good taste behind and enjoy crappiness at it's finest!

(Note: This post was originally written as a guest post for the folks at if you wonder about the touristiness of it, and you can find the original there in all it's glory here)


Martin said...

You should check out the Pizzeria in your swedish home town. It has actually got a French theme theese days consisting of trying to refuse selling you any pizza.

jlpt2kyu said...

I would love to see what would happen if they made a Mosque theme bar, how long would that last?

Fernando said...

A pirate of the high seas theme restaurant where the Jpanaese waiter says "Harr at the end" of every frase, with a plastic parrot on the shoulder and a fake wooden leg...that would be a knockout

Mr. Salaryman said...

Martin - Well, maybe we can go there in style next time I'm home then!

Jlpt - I wonder if not the Japanese could get away with that...

Fernando - Hmmm... to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if one has been set up after all the recent pirate-mania

aimlesswanderer said...

Is there a school/uni themed restaurant? And maybe a chikan/train carriage one too?

Basically, just go through a list of the most common fetishes over there... and there may well be a restaurant for it.

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