Thursday, October 15, 2009
Mai:lish is a maid cafe during the day, a cosplay bar at night. Kind of like Batman in having a secret identity, but much cuter. It's located at the northwestern edge of the Akihabara district, near the intersection of Kuramaebashi Dori and Tsumakoizaka Dori. This means that the clientle is a bit different since there are more offices and schools in the area, and fewer electronics and manga shops. When I arrived, there were several businessmen, and one businesswoman. To get here, take the north exit from the Akihabara JR station, turn left in front of the UDX building. Go past Chuu-ou Dori to the next major street (Tsumakoizaka), turn right and walk about 4-5 short blocks. The cafe is just before the next signal (Kuramaebashi), on the right on the second floor. There are several signs in front so it's easy to find.
The shop area is a narrow rectangle with about 20 small wooden 2-person tables and chairs set up. Shelves near the cash register by the door hold branded goods, including coffee cups, ash trays, towels, posters, and laminated cards and pins with manga-style versions of the maids drawn on them. Along one of the long walls, there's the bar and kitchen, plus the dessert case. The case contains several kinds of cheese cakes, an apple tart, a banana pie, and the "cake of the month". At the far, narrow wall, there's a flat panel TV. Half of the shop is smoking, half non-smoking. It's well-ventilated and the smoke stays in the smoking area. The walls are painted white and the shop is bright and cheerful.
As mentioned above, Mai:lish has two identities. From opening to 5 PM, it's a maid cafe and the staff is all dressed in modest, knee-length (or so) dresses with aprons and lace. After 5, it becomes a cosplay cafe, where the costume themes change periodically. The night I was there, Mai:lish had a train theme. The drinks were all named after Tokyo train lines, and a DVD of various trains played on the TV. The PA system played various soft rock songs that all seemed to have Japanese lyrics regarding trains. One maid wore a maiko (shinto priestess) dress, another had a kind of sailor dress uniform, and the two other maids wore dresses for anime shows I didn't recognize.
Mai:lish is a cafe bar. Entrees include several versions of curry, and some pasta and hamburg steak dishes in the 800 to 1200 yen range, plus some snacks and side dishes. There's a wide variety of soft drinks, with prices from 450 to 600 yen. The royal milk tea is the pricier item. Desserts include ice cream, the cheese cakes and the tarts. The "cake of the month" is a mont blanc chestnut. Supersized soft drinks are available for 900 to 1200 yen. Cocktails are 600 to 800 yen.
The maids are friendly and relatively easy to talk to, but they don't speak English. Fortunately, there is an English version of the menu. I ordered an ice coffee, a tahiti curry and the mont blanc cake. The food was delivered promptly but with no fanfare. Mai:lish skips the standard "maid" stuff like "added flavor chants", drawing pictures on your food and stirring your coffee for you. Instead, it's a simple cafe that focuses more on the food and the costumes. The ice coffee was about 10 ounces, and pretty standard. The tahiti curry was described as being sweeter than the regular beef curry, with more fruits and chicken added. When it was brought out, I was given a plate with a small mound of rice, and a tureen of curry on the side. There's a lot of curry in the tureen, and it makes up for the reduced amount of rice. But, it contained beef instead of chicken so I'm assuming that the maid misunderstood my order and just gave me the regular beef curry. If that's the case, it was good beef curry, but kind of lacking in vegetables. The mont blanc cake was a small slice of fluffy cake with a tan, chestnut frosting. It was good, but would have been better with hot coffee or milk. The full meal came to 2100 yen. A moderate price for a drink, entree and dessert and fortunately, there's no cover charge. But, they don't let you take photos of the food.
Mai:lish doesn't offer maid photos, and when I asked about them, was told that I could buy laminated cards with manga drawings of the maids at the register if I wanted them (I passed on that). They do have a points card. 1 point per 1000 yen; 20 points per card; a full card lets you get a "suteki present" (a nice present, basically just one of the laminated cards or pins). The website advertises some books with links to amazon.jp, and has photos of the maids, the food menu, a blog and the online gift shop. It even has something called the "Mai:lish School" which is described as a "virtual school", but it requires that you be able to read Japanese - it's very text heavy.
I arrived around 6 PM on a week night, and the place was still quiet. It probably got busier later on. It was a nice experience - simple, no frills, focused on the food. And, because there are 3 other maid cafes nearby (Misty Heaven, Year 2 Class 1, and Eine Burg) I'll be back in this area fairly often in the near future.
Location: Near the intersection of Kuramaebashi Dori and Tsumakoizaka Dori, just before the light on the right-hand side of Tsumakoizaka when coming from the Akihabara JR station.
Price: Moderate. Main dishes are between 800 and 1200 yen; soft drinks between 400 and 600; cocktails around 1000 yen; desserts around 600 yen.
Cover: No cover.
Food: Standard entrees, including curries and pastas. A wide range of beverages. Desserts include ice creams and a variety of cakes and cheese cakes.
Service: Friendly, responsive and willing to talk to the customers during the meal.
"Love": No special chants or drawing on the food.
Outfits: Modest maid dresses of various colors from opening to 5 PM. From 5 PM to closing is "cosplay time", where the costume themes change periodically.
Photos: No maid photos. Laminated cards of manga-style maid drawings are available at the checkout counter.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: Outside of having some good desserts and a couple different variations on curry rice, the main highlight of Mai:lish is the cosplay time during the evenings. The themes vary from night to night. When I was there, the theme was "trains", and the costumes included "maiko", sailor dresses, and some other character types.
Recommendation: Mai:lish is a combination maid cafe/cosplay bar. The staff is friendly, the food is good and the prices aren't too high. Plus, there's no cover. Recommended.