Tuesday, 6 January 2015
After class, I went to meet friends at Shinjuku to go to my first themed cafe! Tina and Emily had just arrived in Tokyo after a trip out to Laos, and were returning to Akita that night. As usual, I’m terrible at being on time and estimating travel times, so I was late. Which is still a no-no, especially in Japan.
We made a stop at Zara first (where I purchased my first shirt from! They’re always so expensive, I never though I could ever afford anything at Zara…). We went around to a couple of shops, but then decided to go to the cafe. Alice in a Picture Book was kind of a hard place to find. It’s in the basement of a building, but the advertisement for it wasn’t that prominent. You also cannot go straight down the stairs outside to get inside – you have to take the elevator in the back.
Once inside, though, you’re greeted by a reception desk with a girl in uniform and a statue of one of the Red Queen’s card soldiers. The staff member asks if you’ve made a reservation, but it’s okay even if you don’t. She reads to you the instructions and rules for the cafe: there’s a two-hour time limit, a ¥500 charge per person, and each person must buy a drink and food item. She then led us through a “secret entrance” into the dining area, which was modeled to look like the Red Queen’s garden (the door into the area looks like the front of a book and is ginormous). The atmosphere was really cool, and there was even one waitress dressed as the White Rabbit – but most were Alices. There was one waiter as the Mad Hatter.
The ¥500 charge led to three sides + crackers. And all the dishes and drinks were quite expensive. You cannot leave without spending about ¥2000 at the very least.
The food really turned out to be more about looks than taste, though.
I ended up buying the cheapest thing on the menu – the truffle fries. They were “appetizers,” and thus, sized accordingly (not enough to fill my stomach). They were decent, as all fried potatoes must strive to be at the very least. My companions ordered much more elaborate dishes. One ordered one of the most expensive entrees – the Red Wine Steak with Gnocchi. It sounds fantastical, yes, but the amount of food on the plate was so not worth the price.
The other ordered the Salmon Cream Pasta, which was actually quite tasty. Another rose presentation – this time, with the sparse amount of salmon on the plate.
For our last hoorah, we ordered the elaborate dessert tea set, which was beautifully presented and pretty fantastical, but, again, lacks in taste.
There are two tiers to the platter, but I only posted a picture of the top-most, because that’s where presentation went into play. The Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar are featured with whipped cream smiles. The Cat, however, was literally a hard choux pastry, though. The first tier had a small assortment of cakes on it. And by small, I mean small. One person could finish this special set all by themselves and not be tired of sweets after.
Overall, the experience was, I suppose, what I expected. Theme cafes are really there just for the experience and not for the food.
The one that we went to was the Alice in a Picture Book store. Each Alice-themed restaurant is set in a different part of Wonderland, so I’m sure the decor and food change depending on which branch you visit. Unfortunately, because my experience here was so underwhelming, I don’t think I’ll pay a visit to the others.