Category Archive for Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants
Jump for joy — I’m heading back to Tokyo for the launch of Odigo! Wouldn’t you like to join me?
There’s a rare chance. On Feb 28, I’m hosting an exclusive travel blogging workshop in Tokyo. We’ll teach you all we know about travel blogs, journalism, TV, video, photography and more.
Read on the for details, and photos from the bloodiest, strangest, craziest theme bar ever!
I’m excited to announce the official launch of Odigo, a site that lets you plan an exceptional journey to Japan. You can search for offbeat attractions — such as kawaii stores, theme restaurants — as well as more traditional spots. Odigo links everything together in an optimized itinerary, which lets you get from place to place with ease.
I invite you to sign up to be a contributor – anyone can share their finds on Odigo! And if you’re in Japan… come to my travel blogging workshop on 2/28. My professional photo/film team and I will give in-depth advice on travel writing, photography, TV and video production, social media, working with sponsors, finding a niche, and much more.
When: Saturday, February 28, 1:30-4pm (followed by a round-table and reception). Matador U is giving a workshop before us (see all details on the Facebook invite and MeetUp)
Where: Ryozan Park, 6F, 3-36-7 Otsuka, Tokyo (here’s a map. It’s a few minutes walk from Otsuka station on the Yamanote line).
Cost: Free if you sign up on Odigo and submit writeups for 10 spots. For everyone else, 5000 yen per person. Limited to 25 spaces, including lunch, resources and networking.
Thanks to Odigo, you can easily find info about the most bizarre and obscure places in Japan. For example, I did a writeup about Kabukicho bar, Guinea Pig. Look for a plain building with a winding staircase, and take the elevator up to a door with a barely visible sign.
This underground bar is for those with a bloody disposition. The decoration consists of such nightmares as chains, baby mannequins, and horror movie art.
So, how do you get to Guinea Pig? The address is: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo (all this info is on Odigo!) 1000 yen cover. Opening hours vary; generally from 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455
The bar’s decor is inspired by b-horror movies: zombie hands reach down from the ceiling, and a mannequin in chains sits at a table.
The owner, a flamboyant fellow named Roxy, is hilarious and will make you special cocktails. He’ll also dare you to play with his live pet snake.
Our friends ordered Bloody Marys, while Yukiro and I got his specialty, a mix of grapefruit, rum, and maybe some voodoo potions.
Strange art hangs on the walls. It’s a unique mix of dread and humor in this bar.
And here are all of my posts about bizarre theme restaurants, in Japan and elsewhere.
Some of these bars are one-act novelties, but I can go to Guinea Pig again and again. It’s a subculture hub — there are always interesting people drinking at the small counter.
If you’re a fan of Japanese horror films, and fetish is your idea of fun, then I have a feeling you’ll dig Guinea Pig too. You can look up more spots like this on Odigo.
All of these photos are by Tokyo-based photographer Said Karlsson. He took these candid snaps of Yukiro and me dominating the neon streets of Shinjuku.
No, we’re not posing… we always cross the street like this!
Every dark creature must stop to curtsy in front of evil queen Maleficent.
We couldn’t resist climbing this Japanese kids playground equipment, and striking a pose. Funny, we did something similar in Berlin.
Antics in the convenience store. I’m not sure what we were doing in the magazine section…
We ended up getting special edition rose and sakura flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream. The pink looks nice against my Totoro nails.
In heaven, people feed each other rice with chopsticks. In hell, I suppose they survive on pink ice cream!
Have you been to any of Tokyo’s crazy theme bars? Which ones are your favorites?
I hope to see you at my Odigo travel bloggers workshop, on February 28 in Tokyo! Info is at the top of the post, and feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.
Modern, hidden cat litterbox: Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Japan cat cafes interior design, pet furniture.
My Scottish Fold cat wonders… “What is this green eggy-thing?” Could it be an avantgarde sculpture? An alien pod?
Surprise: it’s a Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Believe it or not, this beautiful design object doubles as a cat litterbox.
Perhaps you recall my first post about the Maohaus, where I described our goal of decorating an apartment beautifully, while accommodating the needs of my cat. One of the biggest challenges: what do do about Basil’s litter box? Regular ones are an eyesore, and hard to hide.
French company SinDesign solved this problem with the Poo Poo Pee Do. I’m impressed by how they combined beauty and functionality — such as a decorative paw-print hole, which doubles as a grip / handle. As you can see, the hole is big enough for “plus sized” kitties!
Basil Farrow feels right at home in this well-constructed pod. No sharp edges, and there are seven grip points that hold the top and bottom together securely.
If it weren’t for the tiger-tail, a visitor would think that this is a mod sculpture! The enclosed pod lets Basil Farrow do his business in private, and also keeps the cat litter from coming out.
Surprise, a cat is hatched! The Poopoopeedoo comes in seven different colors, so you can match it to your interior design. (We have the green one; SinDesign also makes red, black, white, orange, pink, blue.)
Isn’t this a perfect match for our lime-green color scheme? (See more photos of our Maohaus bedroom).
These two pieces come apart. The litterbox size is perfectly tailored to cats, and the round shape is a nice change from the usual square.
Functional, practical and durable — yet it integrates right into our apartment. The material is 3mm thick ABS, which is far more solid than a regular plastic litterbox.
The cover also helps to keep smells at bay. I have to say, this is the coolest litterbox I’ve ever seen.
Hop! We love that the luxury litter-box is eco-friendly too. The interior is smooth, easy to wash, and resistant to cat urine.
Each Poopoopeedo comes with a matching scoop, which attaches under the lid for easy storage. It also comes with two anti-smell tablets that you can clip in.
What more is there to say? This designer litterbox is “Maohaus” cat-interior design at its finest.
I know you want one too… SinDesign’s PooPooPeeDo is available for order online.
As I mentioned in the first post about my apartment, my Maohaus concept is inspired by the creative interior decorations of Japanese cat cafes. To show you what I mean, let me share some never-seen photos from my Tokyo archives.
This giant, yawning gate welcomed me to the big cat “petting zoo” in Odaiba.
Located in Odaiba, “Cats Livin” later became “Nyanda Cat Cafe,” and then closed. (But don’t worry about missing out — there are still tons of cat cafes all over Japan, and now in USA).
Cat’s Livin designed the space with both the cat and visitor’s enjoyment in mind. At the entrance, an American Curl sits by the rule sheet. (“Please spray it on the hand several times before it feels after cat.”)
Keep reading for more photos from this Tokyo cat cafe, including a life-size cat-person…
I spy a mysterious sign in Shanghai’s French Quarter. “Crime in progress. Please disturb.”
What bloodshed lies behind these doors?
Shh, it’s a secret… there’s a Sherlock Holmes theme cafe in Shanghai, China! Read on to peek inside, and I’ll also take you inside two fantastically-designed restaurants, G-9 and G-2.
The name of the cafe is 221B Baker Street, but don’t tell the taxi driver to go here or you might end up in London. The Sherlock Holmes cafe’s actual address is: 50 Ruijin 2nd Rd. (Gaolan Rd.), Shanghai.
The game is a-foot… but don’t try to find the place by foot. The street signs are confusing, and Google Maps doesn’t show the correct location. Instead, hail a hansom (or taxi) and ask your driver to take you to 瑞金二路50号, 近复兴中路. Cab fares are extremely low in Shanghai, so the ride will probably only cost you a few dollars.
Once you’re inside, you can lift a finger and announce, “Elementary, my dear Watson!”
(Above, click the images to shop the looks featured in this outfit post. I love this brand so much!)
The entrance looks like a shrine to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the master detective in BBC’s Sherlock TV series (which is one of my favorites).
Who knew the show was so popular in China? Of course, there are cute miniature “chibi” versions of Watson and Sherlock.
The cafe is designed to look like Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s shared flat, 221B Baker Street. One room looks a Victorian parlor, with brocaded curtains and a game of chess.
Customers can pose with the props: this is not a real violin, and obviously I don’t know how to play it. Behind me, you can spot test tubes and a microscope for Holmes’ forensic examinations.
A deerstalker hat and a pipe are the ultimate Sherlock Holmes fashion accessories. Below are more must-haves for gumshoes in training.
Much of the decor feels authentic to fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels. But a few rooms have a “huh” feeling, like this tropical wallpaper and portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.
The clever menu looks like a newspaper, and the top right indicates the cafe’s opening date: July 2013. The front page has “recommendations by Mrs Hudson,” the landlady of Watson and Holmes.
My baby niece sniffs at the decorated latte, with a coat of arms that shows Sherlock Holmes in profile. I ordered the “Moriarty” drink, an appropriately evil mix of iced coffee with vanilla ice cream on top.
The cafe serves sandwiches, cakes and other snacks as well. However, the selection of BBC Sherlock memorabilia is the biggest draw.
You can pick up Sherlock-themed bookmarks, art, and jewelry.
When you ask for the check, the waiter flips a top hat onto the table. Aha, the receipt is pinned to the brim! Case closed.
If you have never read the Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you must get your hands on them. The stories hold up over time and the writing doesn’t at all feel dated. You can get the whole Sherlock collection here.
Above is a close-up of my skeleton and black pearl necklace, by LLazy Bonez. These Hong Kong jewelers custom-make spooky skull pieces with quality silver and stones.
Now, let’s explore two more uniquely-designed restaurants in China. My team and I were invited to dinner at G9, a new restaurant at the department store Lane Crawford.
There was a light display in front of the designer mall. (All photos by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)
Lane Crawford is the high-fashion destination in Hong Kong and China. The floors carry international luxury brands (like this Alice + Olivia Panda sweater) as well as local labels.
We were here to experience a dramatic new restaurant, G九 (上海) – also known as G-Force or G9 Shanghai. Address: 3/F Lane Crawford block, Shanghai Times Square, 99 Huaihai Zhong Road.
Designed by Ian Douglas-Jones of Atelier I-N-D-J, the interior is pop art meets vampire — a mesmerizing play on light and shadow. Above us, nearly 1000 pendants glow in a moving wave across the room. As you talk and eat, the experience changes as the lights constantly reveal and hide.
A long brass table cuts across the room, serving as both a catwalk and a dining space. Even for jaded diners like ourselves, the atmosphere was dazzling.
G9’s dramatic design is complemented by the artfully-presented meals on the menu. We shared a number of starters, including tuna tataki served in half an avocado, presented like a floral arrangement.
We ordered the lobster linguine twice — it was that good. The pumpkin ravioli and dry-aged beef (carved right at the table) were also outstanding.
All of the G restaurants emphasize local and pesticide-free ingredients. I’m surprised but pleased to see this approach to food taking root in China.
Dessert was literally a masterpiece. The young chef covered a canvas with Jackson Pollack-like swooshes, using ingredients like chocolate sauce as his paints. He told us the picture was inspired by the planets and stars.
For the grand finale, he used molecular gastronomy to release a fog of steam… and with a yelp, he smashed the “planet” on the canvas! We lapped up every last bite of the white chocolate shards and flavors.
The next night, we had Chinese food at G-2, also designed by Ian of INDJ. Once again, the interior design pulled at the imagination. We ate while were surrounded by a 14 meter aquarium of jellyfish, drifting through purple lights.
Address: G2, Shanghai Plaza, No.138 Huaihai Road 4th floor.
The patio gave a glowing view of the city. I can’t believe how much Shanghai has developed the past 5-10 years.
At G2, the food is contemporary Cantonese seafood. I tried tilefish, octopus, and glass noodles with an unidentifiable seafood (despite the mystery, it was my favorite).
I leave you with a colorful view of The Bund. What fun to explore Shanghai, which is becoming more cosmopolitan by the day.
And here’s the Oriental Pearl Tower, glowing like a space pod.
Were you surprised to see a Sherlock Holmes theme cafe and avantgarde restaurants in China?
(PS – if you want to learn more about the clothes I wore in Shanghai, browse and click the images above.)
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scharf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?