Thursday, March 18, 2010
Review: iDOL BOXX (DiCE)
iDoL BoXX (DiCe) is a tricky place to find. The only reason I even knew about it was because of the fliers I'd get occasionally from the maids standing on Chuu-ou Dori. I'd walked by the place a number of times without noticing anything interesting in the area (it's right behind the library near the Buddhist school). I'd only started thinking about going there because the BIZS map I'm using for marking off places I've visited had the name listed but without any mention of what the place was. Even with the map, I walked by the entrance several times before I finally realized what I was looking at. Ignoring the fact that they even have a sign board out front. The reason it's so hard to find is that it's down a narrow stairway into the basement alongside the building's loading ramp.
Actually, iDoL BoXX isn't a maid cafe per se. It's a j-pop idol performance space where the staff sings or dances on the stage at the back of the room. The space itself is maybe 20 by 80 feet, with wooden tables and bench seating along the right wall, and counter seating at the bar along the left. You enter the room at the near end from the stairs. Total seating is maybe 40 people, but during the big events the tables are taken out to make more room for the audience. The walls are an off-white plaster, and there are posters taped up advertising food specials and upcoming events. The next big event will be the 1-year anniversary on March 26, although the twins (two of the staff members) are celebrating their birthday just before that.
iB opens for the evening at 6 PM, and I arrived 15 minutes after that, when the staff was still setting up, and they acted like they were a little unready to let people in yet. But, I was shown to a table, and was the only one there then. A little later, one other guy came in but he left after less than half an hour, only getting something small as a snack. I was told that normally the singing starts at 8 PM and that repeats on the hour, but that if enough people came in by 7 they'd be willing to do one of the shows. (Didn't happen by the time I left.)
I wanted to get something to eat, but all they had was izakaya-style finger foods in the 350-600 yen range. My maid suggested that I get the chicken rice bowl special, and I decided to accompany that with a coke and a maid photo. The maid photos are of just the maid, for 500 yen. You have to fill up the points card to get a shot of you and the maid together. And that's 20 points, at 1 point per 500 yen. 3 full cards gets you a photo with the entire staff; 5 cards is a "present" from the maid of your choice; and 10 cards is a special from the entire staff.
While I was waiting for the food to come out, the two bartenders continued their set up, and 2 of the 3 waitresses moved boxes around and finalized their preparations. None of them had special outfits on, except for the t-shirts advertising the bar. The 3rd waitress, "my" maid, stayed at the table and chatted with me. At one point, she started drawing a self-portrait, which came out looking really nice.
The chicken dish turned out to be a large bowl of rice coated with lettuce and then covered in large chunks of chicken. Not a lot of extra flavors, but with a little black pepper turned out pretty good, and it was filling. It was accompanied by a small bowl of rice crackers and a cup of miso soup. Along with the large coke, 500 yen table charge and the 500 yen maid photo, the total was 2700 yen ($30 USD). Kind of at the high end of the scale, but at least they didn't skimp on the food.
Be careful if you ask for a maid photo. Normally, these are referred to as "chekki", which is the sound the polaroid camera makes when the shutter closes. I asked for a "chekki"; the maid thought I meant "jerky", and shouted the order to the bar. I'm not sure what the reaction would have been if I'd scanned in the "maid jerky" for this blog. Any way, the maid asked if I wanted her to pose at the tables or on the floor near the door. I didn't realize that it'd be just the picture of her so I didn't specify either way. Later, she sat on the floor and the manager took the shot. The maid then spent several minutes touching it up, giving it to me just before I left.
At some point, I'm going to go to a "live bar" at a time when I can actually see the live performance. But, I think I had a much better time talking to the staff for an hour before the rest of the audience came in. They were friendly, attentive, and willing to put up with my broken Japanese. They do speak some English, but there's no English menu, and they'll stick with Japanese if given the chance. Overall, I had fun, but it would have been better if the price was 25% lower.
Name: iDOL BOXX (DiCE)
Location: Just east of 452, on the south side of the library, in the basement of the white building with the big open loading dock.
Price: Moderately high.
Cover: 500 yen lets you stay 1 hour. After that, it's a minimum of one order per hour.
Food: During the evening, the main food items are finger food sampler dishes ala an izakaya (300-600 yen per dish), and the emphasis is on the mixed drinks (700-1000 yen) and beer (700 yen). They were promoting the chicken rice bowl for 1200 yen. Soft drinks for 500 yen.
"Love": No special chants or drawing on the food.
Outfits: No special outfits when I was there. Although the staff were all wearing iDoL BoXX t-shirts.
Photos: 500 yen for just a photo of the maid. Filling up a points card gets you a photo with you and the maid together.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: Live song and dance performances on the stage during the evenings, on the hour.
Recommendation: This one's a toss up. I arrived at 6 PM, just after they opened and the place was deserted. Which led one of the maids to spend the entire hour talking with me. Going later would allow you to watch the song performances, but with more people in the audience you're going to be pretty much ignored by the staff.