Wild, weird and scary: Tokyo's 5 strangest theme restaurants
Dare we say it, but most of us probably don't particularly care for the stuffy dress codes and stick-in-ass wait staff. Instead, let’s shove the gourmet menu to one side and get our laughing gear around these five fun-time Tokyo theme restaurants.
One of the first theme restaurants to open in Tokyo, Alcatraz ER is, as its name suggests, styled after a prison hospital. A prison hospital from hell, that is.
The menu includes human intestines (OK, it’s an unfeasibly long sausage in a kidney dish), a penis on a bed of lettuce (another sausage, suggestively carved) and various impossibly spicy delectables.
As for the drinks, the Nounai Hassha (“brain buster”) is a vodka-based cocktail in a life-size mannequin head, while the Hitori Asobi (literally, “play by yourself”) is a wine cocktail served with, um, a couple of vibrators.
One thing to keep in mind -- you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the wicked nurses, who have a habit of pulling down unruly customers’ trousers to administer an injection from a gigantic syringe. You have been warned.
Harvest Building 2/F, 2-13-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku; +81 3 3770 7100. Open Sunday-Thursday 5 p.m.-11:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, holidays 5 p.m.-4 a.m. Station: Shibuya. http://alcatraz.hy-system.com
The worlds of cosplay and barbecue collide at this Kanda eatery. Halfway between a traditional yakiniku joint and a hostess bar, OK Bokujo allows Tokyo’s hardcore otaku obsessives to dine in style. Waitresses dressed as anime characters grill bite-size chunks of meat at the table and blow on them gently before popping them into the customer’s mouth.
A mere ¥3,500 gets you a yakiniku set, and you’ll be encouraged to buy drinks for the waitresses, who take turns to sit at your table and keep the conversation flowing and peppered with plenty of geek speak.
Every now and then, the girls get up together and dance. And for just ¥500, you can hire a costume of your own and join in the fun.
The food’s not amazing, but frankly, it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes -- sorry, costume -- on in central Tokyo.
Fujita Building 1/F, 3-18-6 Kanda, Chiyoda-ku; +81 3 5256 5133. Open daily 6 p.m.-midnight. Station: Kanda. http://www.29-29.jp
Back in the days of feudal Japan, ninja were top-class assassins who also made excellent sushi. That’s the premise at Ninja, an Akasaka eatery where the food is as robust as the "fortress" in which it’s served.
The restaurant is surprisingly immersive, set in a dark maze-like cave designed to look like a ninja hideout, complete with treasure chests and a secret bridge.
Many dishes are a blur of flames or smoking dry ice, but the sushi really is fantastic. Also recommended are the special stone-boiled soup (a suitably rustic wooden bowl of meat and greens cooked over a hot stone) and the shuriken grissini (grissini sticks with shuriken throwing stars, obviously). Warning -- overeating will hamper your agile reflexes.
To top it off, an illusionist visits each table to perform magic tricks, and all the staff get properly into character, sneaking around the corridors as if preparing to knock off some shogun who’s gotten too big for his britches. Brilliantly, Ninja also does wedding parties.
Akasaka Tokyu Plaza 1/F, 2-14-3 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku; +81 3 5157 3936. Open Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday, holidays 5 p.m.-11 p.m.. Station: Akasaka-Mitsuke. http://www.ninjaakasaka.com
Nothing works up an appetite like handcuffs. So at The Lockup -- which has branches in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Omiya and Ikebukuro -- you’ll be chained to a sexy space cop as she leads you through a B-movie set to your cell, where you’ll carry out your dining sentence behind bars.
The menu is pretty standard izakaya fare (pizza, salad, various grilled meats), but often pepped up with lashings of super-spicy habanero sauce to leave your lips tingling.
To be honest, the quality doesn't always match the slightly high prices (expect to spend roughly ¥3,000 a head), but then, what would you expect of prison food?
The drinks are fun, especially the Jintai Jikken (“human experiment”) cocktail, a chemistry set of colored liquids served in test tubes with a beaker for mixing them all up.
And take care when the lights go out -- the haunted corridors hold all sorts of surprises.
Various locations and opening times. http://www.kitanokazoku.jp/lockup
From the company behind The Lockup comes this chain with an Arabian theme, although the main reference material appears to be Disney’s animated movie “Aladdin.”
At the entrance to each of the Shinjuku, Omiya and Ueno locations you’ll find a golden lamp -- rub this to summon a waiter in tunic and pantaloons (much more efficient than simply bellowing “open sesame”).
Inside, it's all Persian rugs, warmly plastered walls and wrought-iron trimming, with your private booth gently curtained off and scattered with cushions. It’s perfectly inviting for a long Arabian night.
The menu is broadly based on Eurasian cuisine -- stews, kebabs, grills and, uh, pizzas -- and it’s pretty good, if not remotely authentic. The golden eggs are amusing, mind you.
And as you’d expect by now, there are also some quirky drinks, including a Magic Lantern set that lets you mix up your own sweet’n’sticky colorful cocktails. The selection of hookah pipes, sadly, is decorative only.
Various locations and opening times. http://www.kitanokazoku.jp/arabian