Thursday, November 19, 2009
Review: Cafe Mermaid
Cafe Mermaid is one of the newest shops to open up in Akihabara. The maids started handing out fliers about 2 weeks ago, and when I was offered one last Sunday I accepted with the intent to visit 2 days later. The coupon offer on the flier for a free soft drink was an additional incentive.
The weather on Sunday was sunny and pleasant. Tuesday night, not so much. Cold, dreary and raining. When I got out of the station, I noticed one of the maids - shivering under an umbrella - from Mermaid handing out more fliers and I approached her for directions. Because the signs for the cafe are not out in the open and easy to see, she volunteered to guide me. Turns out that it's next door to Pash Cafe Nagomi. We went up to the third floor and through the door, where I was greeted equally with cries of "welcome home, master" and a thick cloud of cigarette smoke. I was given a table at the back, next to the kitchen, in the non-smoking area. I showed my flier with the free drink coupon and was assured that I'd be able to use it to get a cup of hot coffee. I then ordered a "lagoon parfait" and a maid photo. At the other end of the room, a few people sat or mingled, and occasionally one of them would play darts against one of the maids.
Although Cafe Mermaid advertises a "mermaid" theme, it really only extends to tacking some ocean-themed names to some of the menu items, and in having light-blue dress uniforms. The interior of the cafe is an uninspired paneling, with metal chairs and glass tables. The space for taking the maid photos is right in front of the door, so you want to be careful if you hear the elevator doors opening up outside. The menu is limited compared to many other maid cafes in the area, but it does include pasta, omelet rice, a few desserts, soft drinks and mixed drinks. They offer catering if you have a party. The most expensive thing on the menu is the $350 USD bottle of Dom Perignon.
The coffee came out first; a small cup a little over half full. The maid automatically set one packet of sugar and cream next to the cup and left. The coffee was watery and tasteless. Then came the parfait - a small fluted glass half-filled with corn flakes, with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, a piece of banana, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup on top. The syrup tasted good, but it definitely wasn't worth the 800 yen price.
Next was the maid photo. This was a simple heart pose, and the maid brought a set of markers over to decorate the photo at the table. This was actually the highlight of the evening; none of the other cafes I've been to let the maid do the photo mark-up right in front of you. There's not a lot of decoration, but it was fun to watch it being done.
Then came the low point. Although the order slip had "service" next to the coffee (meaning "free"), one of the other maids told me that I should have specifically said that I wanted to use the coupon to get the coffee right at the time that I placed the order (which I had done). There's no way I could have won an argument like this, so I let it slide. But, 500 yen for a tiny cup of bland coffee, 800 for a plain, tiny glass of corn flakes, 500 cover, and 500 for the maid photo comes to 2300 yen ($25 USD), which is twice what the evening was worth. Yes, I'm feeling ripped off, and no I'm not planning on going back.
They do have a points card. 500 yen per point, 50 points per card. You have to present the filled card to the maids to find out what it gets you (nothing's printed about that on the card and there's no online goods shop from their webpage). They offer "reflex", darts and games against the maids, so maybe the points card gets you a free drink, photo or darts game.
The place was almost empty - just a few guys hanging around, including one who was apparently a friend of one of the maids. No female customers. The staff was friendly, and I did feel sorry for the girl that had to stand outside in the cold rain in a frilly dress to hand out fliers. But, overall I was disappointed with the entire experience. Maybe with luck Cafe Mermaid will improve over time, but right now I have no interest in returning anytime soon.
Name: Cafe Mermaid
Location: West of the JR Akihabara station 2 blocks, behind the Sega Building, near Pash Cafe Nagomi. On the 3rd floor.
Cover: 500 yen lets you stay 1 hour.
Food: A limited selection of entrees and desserts. The main focus is on the drinks, and the $350 bottles of Dom Perignon.
"Love": Standard "welcome home master" greetings when you enter and "please come back" when you leave. You can request having things written on your food in catsup if you want.
Outfits: A light blue dress with white apron.
Photos: 500 yen.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: Mermaid is sea-themed, with drinks named "Lagoon", and the ocean-colored dresses. It's also a darts bar, if you want to play darts against the maids.
Recommendation: The food's ignorable, the coffee watered down and the staff are just moderately friendly. Granted they've only been open a couple of weeks, but the overall effect left me unimpressed. Not recommended.