White and fluffy purse-sized pups. Bedazzled fingernails, t-shirts and jean pockets. Pigtails and the color pink. The name Candy.
It’s all about the cute, or ‘ke ai’, in Taiwan.
The cute factor is more than just fashion though; it extends into just about every realm of life, including restaurants.
You mean food can be cute? Absolutely—although it’s not really the food as much as the general ambience that is essential. We’re talking theme restaurants here, and Taipei is home to some of the cutest ones around. Whether you prefer a tutu or toilet, Taipei’s got the eateries you need.
Hello Kitty Sweets
In a country that operates Eva Air’s signature Hello Kitty themed airplane, it’s only natural you’re going to find a Hello Kitty themed restaurant too. Hello Kitty Sweets was much smaller then we initially expected, and we found the décor to be surprisingly tolerable. A massive Hello Kitty face decorates the exterior, while the inside is decorated in baby shades of white and pink, chandeliers, and kitty cuteness everywhere. Oh, and bows, bows, bows! We half expected the waitresses to sport cat ears, but sadly their costume called a quits after the pink ruffled skirts.
It can be quite pricy to eat in the restaurant; expect to pay for the Hello Kitty food design, not the food quality itself. We chose to sample a small desert, which was surprisingly good and still came with Hello Kitty’s face molded into chocolate form.
Location: Address: 90, Da-an Rd Sec 1, Taipei City
Phone Number: (02) 2711-1132
I loved my Barbies just as much as any other little girl. My collection included a three story Barbie house and the entire cast to the Wizard of Oz. But even for me, this restaurant is a little bit much. It’s the first Barbie restaurant in the world, and the owners really tried to set the standard high by spending $1.7 million USD on the place. It basically looks like someone vomited pink and magenta on every square inch of the café. Tutus adorn the chairs; Barbie’s face is blown up to cosmic proportions; the waitresses don tiaras while the waiters wear suits. And of course, there’s a life size Barbie box so you get the perfect snapshot.
You would think this would be a little girl’s dream, but it’s actually quite the opposite. We only saw a handful of children, although the place was packed with young men and women obviously out on romantic dates.
As if Barbie didn’t already get harped on enough for promoting unrealistic expectations about body image, this restaurant pushes the limits even farther. The menu was designed by a nutritionist, and lists the calories for each Barbie-themed food choice available. I guess they assume you might lose a bit of your appetite while staring at replicas of Barbie’s non-existent waistline while you eat. Perhaps it’s a good thing we didn’t see too many young girls inside…
We chose to take some pictures, hold back our giggles at the couples gazing into each other’s eyes, and then move on.
Location: Barbie Café, 2F, 128, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei City
Have a seat and prepare for takeoff. This restaurant actually looks quite reminiscent of a plane, although the seats here offer better leg space. Airplane windows, reclining chairs, personal TVs, and waitresses that double for stewardesses all combine to set the scene. Of course Sponge Bob also commands a huge presence, because, I mean, he totally flies… Unfortunately A380 is located on the same floor as the baby section of the Mitsukoshi department store, which means that most of the diners are the same people toting around their newborns in strollers. When we stopped in there were literally more crying babies than adults. Because the one thing everybody loves on a plane is a baby.
Location: Song Gao Road, #12, 4th Floor– Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, Taipei City
Modern Toilet Restaurant
What’s more appetizing than swirls of chocolate ice cream in a cone? Why swirls of chocolate ice cream in a toilet, of course! Modern Toilet is, as the name suggests, all about the bathroom devices. Seats are designed as toilets, tables as sinks, showerheads decorate the walls and all food comes served in a miniature toilet bowl. Naturally the owner says he had the innovative idea while taking his own dump on a porcelain throne and reading about a Japanese cartoon character that swirled his poop on a stick. Somehow the gross idea took hold with several chains now across Asia. If you really feel like eating your food out of a toilet bowl and chugging beverages from a urinal, this is the place for you.
Location: 2F., No.7, Lane 50, Sining S. Rd., Wanhua District, Taipei City
If you want to get value for your money and actually savor the food you’re eating, then the Ninja restaurant is our recommendation. We found this place to be about the food first and the theme second. Expect Japanese cuisine, with yummy selections like sashimi, sushi, barbecue, and salads. Of course, draft beer served in paper lanterns also made an appearance. We were quite pleased with the prices, the service, and the flavors, especially when compared to the other themed restaurants.
However, there are a couple things about the Ninja restaurant to keep in mind. For one, it was previously a hospital themed eatery, and the remnants are still obvious. At one point a ninja waitress who wanted to ‘play a game’ approached us. Roll the dice; guess if your number is higher or lower than your competitor. If you win, liquid from a ‘good’ syringe is dispensed into your mouth. If you lose, unluckily you get the bad one. What syringes have to do with ninjas I don’t know. Also, be aware that the ninja-gals put on a bit of a dance in the middle of dinner. Again, I don’t know what booty-bumping with people trying to eat has to do with Japanese ninjas, but just let them know in advance if you would like to participate in the half-time show or not. And be prepared, there is ice involved.
Maybe we just prefer ninjas to princesses. Regardless, this was our favorite establishment.
Location: No. 129, Section 4, ShiMin Blvd, Songshan District, Taipei City
Taipei’s many theme restaurants probably won’t offer your taste buds much to think twice about. It’s okay though, because they’re not really about the food; rather, these restaurants provide whimsical, offbeat establishments that aim to delight all the senses. One things for certain: Taipei’s theme restaurants provide a unique Taiwanese experience that leaves you with a greater understanding of all the word ‘cute’ can really mean. And come on, where else can you laugh about your poop-shaped food anyway?
Have you been to any outrageous restaurants? Which one above sounds most appealing?
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