Most people are familiar with the concept of theme restaurants. In the US we have Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, and similar places.
But the Japanese have taken the idea of a theme restaurant and made it into an art form.
A quick google search gives hundreds of hits on Japanese theme restaurants. Unfortunately, many of the reviews listed are old and links no longer work, but with a little hunting, one can find such gems as:
Vampire Cafe - As you might imagine, the theme of this restaurant is vampires. The flooring is designed to look like red blood cells. Red drinks (which could be anything from wine to fruit juices) are served in lavish goblets, just as manga artists would have us believe Dracula dines on blood. Coffins and crosses abound, and some of the tables are even designed to look like sacrificial altars! Certain entrees are served in tiny, coffin shaped dishes, and red is a theme throughout everything. Best part? Yep, they do birthday parties!
Next we have the ever popular Alcratraz ER - An unlikely combination of a jail and hospital theme, Alcatraz ER is unique, even among theme restaurants. Drinks are served in giant plastic syringes and test tubes, and food is designed to look deliberately grotesque. Certain items shown on the site are even censored because they've been made to look like choice parts of the male anatomy. Diners are locked up in "jail cells" for the duration of their dinners and, as I understand it, there is the occasional "jailbreak" and waitresses and waiters run amok. Not for the faint of heart, Alcatraz ER can be a fun, if occasionally unnerving night out.
If you want something a little more soothing, Cube Hatago is the place for you. Designed to look like a traditional ryokan, Hatago's decor and menu choices change with the seasons. Right now, of course, everything is related to springtime and the cherry blossoms. The photos of Hatago on the website are truly beautiful, and it would be worth going just to enjoy the atmosphere. But look out! Hatago's not cheap! A night there may cost you as much as $80, so save your pennies!
Of course, we can't forget the dozens upon dozens of maid cafes! Exactly as they sound, maid cafes are simply restaurants where all the waitresses are dressed up like maids. Some have specific themes, such as maids from a particular anime or game, and some will change the uniform according to upcoming holidays (Christmas maids, Valentine's maids, etc) One of the more famous cafes is Amusement Cafe, which even includes a "cast list" for your information. Mostly frequented by otaku, maid cafes can be a fun diversion from the norm.
Keep in mind that many themed restaurants will require reservations to eat dinner or ever just have drinks, so it's best to call ahead (if you speak Japanese) or write them an email (in simple English, of course!) to get more information about that. Ninja, for example, accepts reservations in English, with certain limitations. (Ninja also includes their menu in English on the website, and it's worth checking out!) And a point of interest to those of us stuck in the US, Ninja also has a restaurant in New York! Interested? Take a look at Ninja New York!
For more information on other themed restaurants, check out Metropolis blog. The writer has addresses and phone numbers to quite a few other places that are definitely worth checking out. Enjoy, read up, and have some good food!
Below is a linklist to various theme restaurant websites:
Ninja New York (Review only)
If you have any theme restaurants you know of that you would like me to add to the linklist, please let me know!
And if you've been to any of the mentioned restaurants, please feel free to leave a review of it!