Themed restaurants are a mixed bag and a firm favourite of mine. Spectacular palaces of kitsch, they’re festooned with mismatched decorations, serve shitty overpriced food tenuously linked to the theme via puns, and are staffed by wage-earners faking enthusiasm for trivia quizzes so easy you feel you need to throw a couple questions just so they can feel like they got one over on you. No, Ricky from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co on the Santa Monica Pier, I don’t recall what Forrest Gump’s girlfriend’s name was. Oh, you cad, you win another one!
There are plenty of restaurants centred around movies or music, not to mention the category’s leather-daddy Medieval Times, but gaming-themed establishments are few and far between. Capcom and Square Enix have novelty cafes on or near their corporate campuses, and Vancouver has the generically gamey EXP Bar, but there’s nothing as oddly specific in gaming eateries as Dunedin, New Zealand’s “Tull,” a Jethro Tull joint where once you could order Bungle In The Jungle Curry or Living In The Pasta. (It has since shut down, a victim of its own ambition.)
But times are changing! If you’re in Tokyo, you can, right now, dine or drink at the brand-new Dark Souls Cafe, based around From Software’s notoriously difficult fantasy RPG (and now multimedia franchise, I guess).
Dengeki Online has photos from the opening, which featured medieval cosplay and apparently mock duels between staff members. Appropriately, the decor is a grim grey-brown, with concept paintings and melee weapons adorning every wall. Staff are decked out in armour and robes. The best part is the bonfire installed in an alcove, surrounded by loot. Rest here and get cured of indigestion!
As per the cafe’s official site, the menu features Estus flasks (beer); roasted Mushroom People (sautéed mushrooms); and stone (onion) rings. The more adventurous can order “ephemeral black meat bun” (a red pepper meat bun with squid ink), “fried meat of snake people” (it’s chicken), or “vegetables cut off the dead cock.”
They’re also taking recipe submissions, if you have any better ideas for Dark Souls-themed comestibles.
It is odd that the proprietors should choose a game so closely associated with controller-smashing frustration and repeated death on which to base their restaurant. All I'll say is: there are swords in the restaurant, and Anton Chekhov might have something to say about it.
The application of logic, unfortunately, reveals the whole exercise as a publicity stunt - Dark Souls II is set for a March 11 release, and the cafe is merely a redressing - a texture swap, if you will - of the ordinarily Australian-styled Oz Cafe. There’s something cynical about building a restaurant just to promote a single title - check the sequel-specific branding everywhere - but everyone seems to be having fun regardless. If anyone in Tokyo is reading this, I’d love to hear how the mushroom people taste.
Most importantly, now I have a precedent to pursue that Surgeon Simulator 2013 restaurant I’ve been wanting to open since 2013. Too long have we suffered without eating ribs directly from a ribcage.