If you read my blog often enough, you may notice that I love themed cafés. I mean, themed cafés are great anywhere, but when I'm in Asia, all bets are off. This time, I decided to take a trip with my friend Katy to the Barbie Café in Taipei.
At this ridiculously pink place, you will find a specific demographic. not too unlike the Hello Kitty Dreams Restaurant I frequented back in Beijing. The most common guests? Try this scene below out for size. Young mother (see woman taking photo) with her young child (small child crying in centre) and the young mother's friends. If you look to the right, you will see two staff members who came to sing her a happy birthday and scared the poor child so much that she immediately burst into tears and continued to cry painfully out loud for about five minutes, much to the dismay of her poor mother. In her defence, if a brash woman with bright pink hair and a frilly skirt accompanied by a silly man with a sateen vest came up to ambush me, I'd probably be scared too.
At Barbie Café, there are two major streams of ordering for the menu: snacks and set meals.
For snack options, you might want to opt for something fancy-looking like this toast tower with chocolate ice cream.
Or perhaps you would like something similar but even more fancy like this "jewellery box", which is a toast cube topped with whipped cream, evaporated milk, fruit, and a random macaron in the corner.
However, Katy and I were hungry and we wanted to eat a full meal so we opted-out of the snacks and admired our neighbours' snacks instead. I asked the girl who's toast-and-ice-cream I shot if it was indeed delicious. She stared at me, shrugged her shoulders and stated simply, "well, it kind of tastes like...toast. With ice cream on top".
So, set meals it was. I should preface the next couple of photos by saying that the menu is rather confusing. All you have to know is that you cannot simply order any "non-snack" item à la carte, but rather, must order it in a set. So, the price that you see beside the item is already the prix-fixe price, plus an additional 10% service charge (by the way, there is no tax or tip in most restaurants in Taiwan, for my North American readers). Most set meals range between 280-580 NT.
We shall start off with salad! Small, and "Thousand-Island-y". Thousand Island dressing is surprisingly a very common dressing in Taiwan. Most people are shocked to learn that it was invented in Canada.
Beverage: Select from coffee, tea, iced tea, juice, you know the drill.
Extra cost for their special drinks, such as Katy's delicious iced rose latté, but who can put a cost on having a pink sprinkles Barbie on top of your latté foam, am I right?
Then, there is nothing better than regular dinner rolls than dinner rolls with Barbie heads pressed onto them.
Of course, the dinner rolls are to go with your cream-of-something soup.
But the drink, salad and soup are not all you get to start a meal, oh no. We have an appetizer to choose! Katy ordered the "tuna" appetizer, which was a little mushy and was literally just canned tuna, but somehow they managed to make it look fancy too (are we sensing a pattern here?).
As for my appetizer? Does a small ball of rice with apple and sausage slices on top of a bed of pumpkin soup count as a thing? If so, then that is what I had.
The mains though, were actually surprisingly good.
Katy ordered the seafood risotto off the (slightly) healthy menu.
And I decided to pull out the big guns and ordered a tomato-based cuttlefish risotto. No wait, it was just a tomato-risotto with a giant cuttlefish on top.
Only in Asia would it make sense to have cuttlefish risotto as one of the top choices at a Barbie Café. From an authenticity perspective, these were not actually risottos at all, but from a Taiwan perspective, these were actually pretty good.
Wait, hold on. Let's take a final look at the comically large prawn that Katy got in hers. Ha ha ha.
And then the prix-fixe concluded abruptly with chocolate ice cream. Yum.
There were of course, other dessert options for you to choose from if you were in the mood for mousse! (I did not).
But the best part of the café would probably have to be the photo ops.
"Barbie! Is that you!?"
Annie: "Katy, you must strike a pose or it defeats the purpose of this chair"
And...a classic jump shot!
The view from the outside.
The best part of the whole day however, was me finally being able to use my Barbie Visa card in an appropriate setting. And for those of you wondering, yes, I do have a limited edition Barbie Visa card. So true in fact, that I even went to great lengths to block out a few numbers in this photo so that none of y'alls try to hack into my account! I could tell the girl beside me was very jealous of my card. All I have to say is, "back off, small child! The pink privilege is mine!"
When it comes to themed restaurants, it's not about the food, it's about the experience. So if you find yourself in Taipei with nothing better to do, do come and enjoy a great afternoon with Barbie and friends!