In March 2018, the first permanent Pokemon café opened in the swanky Takashimaya centre in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area. Since its debut, the café has been experimenting with seasonal twists, and hot off the tails of its tropical summer inspired Sun and Moon menu, it has been serving up a Halloween menu that pays tribute to the darker side of Pokemon.
To mark the Halloween theme, the statue that sits between the Pokemon café and the adjacent Pokemon Centre Tokyo DX has been decked out in autumnal colours. The big-bellied sleeping giant Snorlax (カビゴン – Kabigon) rests peacefully between a magician-costumed Pikachu, and a playful looking Mew. Below them are some spider-web donuts, and orange and purple decorated sweets.
With the Pokemon franchise being a popular as it is, half the battle of experiencing the Pokemon café is getting through the door. Making a reservation online in advance is essential. However, as I learnt the hard way due to foolishly not completing my ticket purchase online (the jury’s still out on that one), getting in at the door is risky but not entirely impossible.
The very helpful staff, who were proficient in English, allowed me to wait in a separate line for those wanting to get in due to any last minute cancellations. Within ten minutes a line of hopeful café goers formed behind me, and after another ten minutes we were notified that three seats had become available for seating in forty-five minutes. As the second person in line, I jumped at this opportunity and was signed up and told to return later.
Luckily, this time gave me the chance to explore the adjacent Pokemon Centre Tokyo DX megastore. Browsing the merchandise in the store was a lot of fun. Seeing displays bursting with rows of colourful stuffed Pokemon plushies was a real delight. They had absolutely everything that the Pokemon fan in your life would love to receive: plushies, clothing, stationary, snacks, and even beauty masks.
They also had a host of Halloween themed special edition merchandise fittingly caption with ‘We are Team Trick’, which paid tribute to dark Pokemon, such as Gengar (ゲンガー Gangar) and Sableye (ヤミラミ – Yamirami), alongside a cute Halloween edition of Pikachu with a cake top hat holding a fork.
When I returned to the café I was finally let in and directed to my seat. The café was spacious and nicely decorated with a large table in the middle with centre pieces showing all the most well-known Pokemon such as Charizard (リザードン – Rizādon) and Bulbasaur (フシギダネ – Fushigidane) . In the middle of the room tiny figurines and stuffed toys were displayed in glass display cases, next to a giant sleeping Snorlax plushie. Pokemon shaped pumpkin decorations aligned the walls, and Pikachu plushies dressed in chefs uniforms sat patiently for photo opportunities with diners.
The café was really well organised, with each table equipped with a tablet device to view the menu on in Japanese and English, which made ordering a breeze. Printed instructions were given on how to order and other useful information. Importantly, I was advised that my visit was timed to a maximum 90 minutes, and that last orders had to be made 30 minutes before leaving time. I was also delighted to receive a cute Halloween themed paper placemat.
Looking through the tablet menu I saw that they actually had quite an interesting variety of food types and designs. Though it was hard to resist the adorable Eevee Burger, I turned my attention to the limited edition Halloween menu.
The menu included: Pikachu Halloween Plate Meal (1,580 yen), Gastly Mincemeat Cutlet Burger (1,580 yen), Golbat’s Poison Float Drink (850 yen), Pikachu Halloween Chestnut Latte (850 yen), and Tangela Halloween Mont Blanc (1,380 yen).
Though I love everyone’s favourite electricity producing yellow critter, I wanted to give the less celebrated, darker Pokemon centre stage, so I skipped the cuter Pikachu dishes and drinks in favour of the more spooky options.
Gastly Mincemeat Cutlet Burger
In this dish, everyone’s favourite poisonous gas, ghost-type Pokemon is recreated as a trendy charcoal black bun burger, filled with a deep-fried mince meat cutlet (menchi katsu) patty, purple radish relish, and crisp purple cabbage. The black bun and the decorations to make Gastly’s face really fit the bill. The black bun was nicely toasted and the mincemeat cutlet patty was juicy.
However, the side dishes were a bit of a let down, though the French fries were good, the corn pottage soup was a bit too gloopy on the bottom, and the sweet potato chips though visually a nice addition placed alongside the black bun, were a bit too hard and overcooked. I love a good hamburger and fries, and though those components of the set were tasty, the side dishes brought it down a bit. In terms of presentation though the dish got full marks.
Golbat’s Poison Float Drink
Golbat, a flying/poisonous type Pokemon, which resembles a bat with fangs and large wings, is certainly a Halloween-ish type of Pokemon. In this drink, a Golbat cutout adorns a purple straw, placed in a berry flavoured fizzy soda float with mixed berry pieces, and a scoop of grape ice cream on top. Golbat has the ability to suck the blood out of other Pokemon, and this vampy behaviour perhaps lends to the drinks dark colour, as well as the associations with dark purple to poisonous Pokemon in Japanese video games.
Though that may not sound appealing, the drink certainly was. I really enjoyed the slightly sour grape, and berry flavours, and the use of real fruit pieces such as strawberries and blueberries made the drink even more refreshing. Also, the ice cream didn’t melt despite me leaving it while I got distracted taking pictures around the café. Luckily, by ordering a drink I was given a free Halloween themed Pokemon coaster to take home.
Tangela Halloween Mont Blanc
What’s a meal without dessert to finish off? From looking at the menu, I was very excited to try this Tangela (Jモンジャラ – Monjara) inspired sweet. In this Pokemon themed take on the popular Japanese version of the autumnal dessert Mont Blanc, the dessert’s characteristic use of strings of whipped chestnut cream to imitate the snow-capped mountains of the Alps is ingeniously repurposed to recreate Tangela’s spindly vines, which they use to ensnare their foes.
Though not technically a dark Pokemon, and actually being part of the seemingly innocuous grass-type Pokemon, Tangela still fits well in the Halloween theme. Indeed, Tangela’s shadowy face, which is obscured by thick blue vines that can entangle anything that comes near it, lend it a spooky look.
Though visually I found the dish to be fun and inventive, on the whole I was a bit underwhelmed by the taste. I enjoyed the fluffy sponge cake and sweet chestnut paste on the inside, and the chocolate sauce on top, however, I felt Tangela’s vines lacked in flavour, and tasted more like bland icing rather than whipped chestnut cream, and the granola didn’t really add anything worthwhile to the dish.
Though I didn’t get to taste the Pikachu inspired treats I was able to see what they contained through the menu. The Pikachu Halloween Plate is a Halloween version of the café favourite set, consisting of a rice omelet in the shape of Pikachu’s head with a top hat, a hamburger patty, fried shrimp, pumpkin salad, and bite-sized hash browns. For an additional 1,188 yen you could receive a limited-edition souvenir Jack-‘o-Lantern Pikachu Halloween plate.
The Pikachu Halloween Chestnut Latte also looked like a great addition to the seasonal autumnal menu. The latte art looked amazing, and the souvenir Pikachu cup available for purchase was absolutely adorable.
With thirty minutes on the clock before our time dining was up, and last orders being over, diners were treated with a surprise visit from Chef Pikachu himself. Though diners are not allowed to take pictures with Chef Pikachu, we were allowed to take pictures of him, and most importantly were able to shake his giant cuddly hand as he made his rounds around the restaurant. It was a great way to end a trip to a fun, visually stimulating place.
Though overall I wasn’t completely in love with the taste of these Halloween dishes, I was satisfied by the visual aesthetic of the food, and the restaurants interiors. Though the Halloween menu ends on Halloween day on October 31st, the Pokemon café still offers a lot of excitement for anyone wanting to visit. It seems that there’s Pokemon for every season, and you’re bound to have fun visiting whenever that might be.