Some times, when living in Japan, one finds oneself at some pretty wacky places. After spending the weekend touring (and tweeting!) the newly designated World Heritage Sites surrounding the Tomioka Silk Mill (more on that soon), I found myself spending Marine Day in line at the Pop-up Pikachu Cafe that just opened in Tokyo this weekend. Opened in conjunction with the newest movie in the unending money-printing machine that is the Pokemon empire, the Pikachu Cafe sits at the top of the tony Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. This is classy experience, from top to bottom.
First off, while the website proudly proclaims that the cafe is free to enter, there’s the little fact that the privilege of riding the elevator to the 52nd floor will cost you a cool 1500Y, or about $15 (my exchange rate, it is not so exact.) With this you get access to an art exhibit at the Mori Art Museum, the option to buy a ticket to the Gaudi Exhibit, and of course entrance to the Pokemon Exhibit. There’s enough background art, storyboards and the like to pretend that this is an art exhibit as well, but pretty much everyone is there for the Cafe. So many people that it took over 100 minutes to get through it, but a coworker tried to go on Sunday and faced a 3 hour wait, so I guess I got off easy?
The menu is fairly simple, with only a few main options, but even still the huge crush of humanity meant that even once you got through the ridiculous line, there was still quite a wait for your food. Still, people were generally pretty positive, and there was enough to keep the kids running in and out of line entertained that there weren’t too many screaming hellions flailing about.
To be honest, there weren’t that many kids in general. Sure, there were some, but there was also a striking number of adults with no tots in tow. After all, grown ups have money, and this place requires a lot of it. And there really isn’t quite the same “childish” stigma here to cute things in general and Pokemon in particular. If you love you some Pikachu, that’s cool. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a weirdo in the same way it seems to in the US, and the table next to mine even had very fashionable hipsters, one of whom was wearing a fancy black polo which had a tiny Pikachu logo that I only noticed as he was leaving.
In order to keep things moving, you prepaid using the ticket systems found in many less fancy Japanese restaurants. Noodle counters and food courts make liberal use of this technology, and it probably did help minimize the line, as you still had a good twenty minutes between purchase and sitting down. No hemming and hawing at the table!
My meal set came with a Pikachu pudding (pictured later) as well as my choice of ice cream float. I went with the Kiwi Chespin (ハリマロン) drink, and it was actually pretty tasty. They used Monin syrup and Kiwi sauce in addition to the milk and vanilla ice cream. It was nice! And the coaster was mine to keep, what a deal!
The main attractions were of course the main meals. The Teriyaki Burger was actually really solid. It’s a little pricey, but about what you’d expect to pay in Mori Tower anyway.
This is where you hand in your ticket and get your drink. Look, adults! Hipsters in manly capris even!
The assembly was going a mile a minute, and still having a bit of a tough time keeping up!
The curry was also ridiculously adorable. I’m not the biggest fan of Japanese curry, and this one seemed more about the presentation that the food. Honestly, I’m kind of ok with that. I mean, everyone is well aware that they are paying for the experience, and having Pikachu’s face plastered on everything, and carrots and omelets cut into tiny stars are definitely part of the experience.
The Pikachu Parfait, on the other hand, was definitely one of the main attractions. Nicely layered with fruit, whipped cream, strawberry & kiwi sauce, and of course the Pikachu pudding with shocking blue sugar, the Pikachu Parfait really packed a punch. It’s 880Y, but an impressive amount of food. The other dessert on the menu costs the same, but seems to contain approximately 1/30th of the food quantity, and I did not see a single one go by in the entire hour I was seated. (It pretty much looks like powdered sugar on a plate.)
Anyway, the parfait is nice, though a little bit of a sugar bomb. I feel like a scoop of ice cream probably would have brightened it up, as it got pretty warm during the eating, and a nice spot of cool would have been quite welcome. Still, it was fun to eat, and felt worth the 880Y. The food may not have been the most delicious ever, but it was reasonably tasty, and the food design was on point. I mean, look at this thing!
Was it expensive and silly and somewhat ridiculous? Yes. But it was also a ton of fun and a great experience. I think that as long as you know what you’re going for, and your expectations are along the lines of “kinda pricey but well put together”, then you’re bound to enjoy yourself. I did!