Maidreamin Maid Café (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)

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(Wednesday, January 25, 2017)

Address: 3-22-10 Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo

On our first morning in Tokyo, we slept until 11:30am since we’d gotten in so late the night before. Our flight had landed at 1:10am so we just took a very expensive cab ride to our Airbnb (luckily we were only coming from Haneda Airport, not Narita) but by the time we’d eaten (ramen from the Family Mart downstairs) and gotten settled in to go to bed, it was nearly 4am. By the time we got up, showered, dressed, and ready to leave the next morning, it was 1:30pm, so we were famished.

We decided to walk toward Shinjuku to find something to eat since our Airbnb hosts had left a little binder of information for us and it said Shinjuku was only two metro stops away, or a brisk 15 – 20 minute walk. We stopped for coffee at someplace called Tully’s Coffee, which we quickly realized was a chain. Luckily, the cashier spoke enough English for us to order two lattes without any problems, and we were soon on our way with two lattes as the staff chorused polite thank yous and goodbyes at us in Japanese.

Fortified with caffeine, we wandered around Shinjuku for a while before I decided I was hungry again and wanted to eat. Josh said he didn’t have any preferences and told me to pick a place. I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices so when we stumbled across a place called Maidreamin with kawaii food in the shape of animals, I decided we should pop in to check it out.

You’d think the word MAID in the name would have tipped me off before we went in…

Almost as soon as we walked in, I belatedly registered the name “Maidreamin” and realized it was a maid café. A couple waitresses in short, puffy, petticoated maid dresses chirped greetings at us in high pitched voices and one came over to seat us. She informed us there was a minimum table charge, and that both us would have to order something. Already seated, I kind of felt like it was too late to back out so I bemusedly agreed.

Our waitress came back with a small, plastic, electric tea candle and knelt beside our table. She requested (in the same, girlish, high pitched voice) that we do a little chant with her while she clapped (I did so in amused bewilderment, while poor Josh mumbled along looking discomfited), and then the candle lit up red, supposedly signaling the beginning of our Maidreamin experience.

Feeling slightly flustered but starving, I quickly ordered a curry tonkatsu rice dish in the shape of a teddy bear. It wasn’t until Josh said he didn’t want anything that I realized just how uncomfortable he was, but our waitress reminded us we both needed to order something so Josh selected a Coke. I felt guilty that I’d gotten us into this bizarrely infantilizing situation but we were already committed, so c’est la vie! We soldiered on.

While waiting for our food, our waitress brought us fuzzy headbands to wear (cat ears and bunny ears) and indicated we should put them on, and when I put on the cat ears, she clapped in seeming ecstasy. I jokingly offered the bunny ears to Josh – I can’t imagine why he didn’t want to wear them! When our waitress brought Josh’s Coke, he didn’t even want to drink it, and that was my cue I should get us out of there ASAP haha.

When in Japan… you put on the cat ears and put up the peace sign.

My curry arrived, along with two bottles of sauce (ketchup and a thick shoyu sauce), and our waitress indicated she would draw on my food. I agreed, and she proceeded to doodle little ketchup features on my rice bear as well as squiggles along the plate’s edges and finally, a shoyu heart over the tonkatsu.

All snark aside, this was pretty good. No lie.

I will say, overwhelming cutesiness and discomfiting Lolita-esque vibes aside, the food itself was decent. Maybe not the best tonkatsu ever, but then again, what do I know, I was starving and I’m no curry connoisseur. Anyway, I ate as quickly as possible (and drank Josh’s Coke), and we paid our bill and got the hell out of there. Josh seemed immensely relieved to get out the door, and I can’t say I blamed him.

In retrospect, I suppose I’m glad we went, so at least we can say we’ve been to one of Tokyo’s famous themed cafes. It wasn’t blatantly creepy, per se, although there were a couple men sitting on their own who seemed like they were there just to be able to chat with the waitresses. I suppose they could JUST be lonely and want someone JUST to talk to, like the girls you can pay in Shanghai clubs to hang out at your private table…

So if you’re not easily embarrassed and enjoy overly kawaii things, you’ll have no problem at a Maid Café. Fair warning, I thought I fell into that category, and I was still pretty weirded out. If you’re introverted and don’t like kawaii things (like my ever patient boyfriend who still puts up with my Hello Kitty obsession), then a Maid Café probably definitely isn’t the best place for you (unless you’re Humbert Humbert, but again, ew). That being said, I mostly just wanted food in the shape of a teddy bear, and a Maid Café is a reliable place to get that!

Booze: ★½ (no booze, but the food was alright)
Snark: ★★★½

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