Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review: Moe Con Cafe

Where to start. This one's hard. I could begin by mentioning that it was snowing, a watery slush forming on the sidewalk as I walked from the JR station towards the building with Pash Cafe Nagome on the second floor, when the maid stepped out of the elevator of the building as I was walking up, and how she wasn't dressed for standing out in the cold for an hour handing out fliers, thus being more than happy to return back into the building with me in tow. Or, I could say that I was checking off the remaining maid stores on my BIZS map and I was about to drop in on Bar Zeon to see if it was maid related when I discovered that it'd had gone out of business and just been replaced by Moe Con@Cafe two weeks prior and I hadn't noticed it when I'd visited Candy Fruits Strawberry at the same time. Or, I could mention the 500 yen table charge per 30 minutes and how much I hate paying table charges...

I really want to like Moe Con, I really do. It's brand new and shiny. But like Cafe Mermaid next door, there are so many strikes against it that I have to be honest. Cruel, but honest.

The maids were very friendly, and when I arrived there were 4 maids and us 3 customers (me and 2 young guys at one corner table). So, I got to spend a lot of time talking to the one assigned to my table. The first thing I asked about was Moe's "sales point", i.e. - what sets it apart from the other cafes. The first answer is that because it's new, it's still really clean, Plus, it's modeled after @Home. So, it's clean, it's got pretty maids, and you can play board games against them for 3-5 minutes for 500 yen.

Unfortunately, there's a 500 yen table charge for 30 minutes, and since it takes at least that long to get the food, you're looking at 1000 yen just for permission to sit down. On top of that, the food's pricey for what you get, and it's 800 yen for a photo with a maid (500 yen for a shot of just the maid). I ordered a parfait, hot coffee and the maid photo, which came to 2750 yen ($30 USD). If I'd gotten dinner and some drinks it would have been a lot more, making Moe Con one of the most expensive cafes I've been in so far, including Idol Produce. (Actually, Moe Con has bottled Dom on the menu; the white Dom is about $300 USD for one bottle, the rose DOM is almost $900 USD. If you want expensive.)

The menu is fairly limited, with omelet rice, curry rice and pastas for around 1200 yen. A number of soft drinks for 450 yen. Beer and mixed drinks around 650 yen. And a selection of 4 desserts (ice cream, a parfait and some sponge cakes) between 350 and 650 yen. I ordered a hot coffee and an almond pudding parfait, which arrived fairly quickly. The coffee was in a small cup, and the maids happily gave me extra sugar for it. We then went through an added flavor chant (moe moe oshikunare beam), which did work because the coffee was strong and not bitter. The parfait on the other hand came out in a small fluted glass - corn flakes on the bottom, whipped cream in the middle, a small almond pudding on top and some more whipped cream and a cherry, plus some chocolate syrup. I tried explaining how a parfait in the U.S. has a lot more ice cream and fruit in it for the same price, and no corn flakes, but the maids didn't believe me.

(Notepaper being used in place of a points card.)

There's all kinds of things missing that I would have expected to be put in place long before the doors first opened: there's no website yet; they're waiting on getting the points cards; and while they seem to have some kind of a random drawing where you have a chance of winning a free maid photo, or some goods sitting on the shelves behind the bar, there's nothing saying how to participate in the drawing - if you have to win a maid game or just pay for a chance at the drawing. Regarding the stuff on the shelves, there's no printed list of what's on offer, or if any of it is stuff that you can buy outright.

On the other hand, the maids are all smart, attractive and willing to stop and chat. And, there's no shortage of customers. After the first two guys left, a group of 6 young men came in and sat at the counter at the bar. I do have to add that the 5th floor is the non-smoking space. The smokers were on the 4th floor, and I didn't pop my head in to see how crowded it was there. Both floors are a bit small, with tables and counter space for about 20. Given the @Home motif, the walls are white and the space is brightly lit. J-pop plays on the speaker system. And, there's an area between the tables along one wall where the maid photos are taken. My maid spent about 5 minutes touching up our photo, and she looked pretty proud of her work when she brought it back to me.

Like I said up at the beginning, I really want to like Moe Con Cafe. The maids are nice and I enjoyed talking to them. But, they're not ready yet. Being a more expensive spin-off of @Home, and not having any of the other props set up for it, is not enough to make me want to become a repeat customer. Eliminate the table charge, put up the website, bring in the points card, and introduce a line of branded CDs and DVDs (I'd love a Moe Con t-shirt) with the price list printed up next to the cash register, and it'd be a good start. But, even if all of these suggestions were implemented, it'd probably take a few months for the cafe to actually develop a personality of its own, meaning that it may be better to wait for a while before stopping by for a visit.

Name: Moe Con Cafe
Location: 4th and 5th floors, above Pash Cafe Nagome and Candy Fruits Strawberry.
Price: High
Cover: 500 lets you stay 30 minutes.
Food: Limited selection of entrees (omelet rice, pasta and curry) around 1200 yen, soft drinks for 450 yen, mixed drinks and beer around 600 yen, and a small selection of desserts (ice cream, parfait and sponge cake) between 350 and 600 yen.
"Love": Added flavor chants, drawings on the foods in catsup or chocolate syrup for an additional 100 yen.
Outfits: White blouse with pink apron and skirt ala @Home.
Photos: 500 yen for just a photo of the maid; 800 yen if you're also in the photo.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: Typical maid cafe, with maid games, photos and drinks.
Recommendation: Right now, Moe Con is too new and is still trying to "find itself". It may be better to wait a little while and try visiting later when it's taken on a personality of its own.

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