Although I don’t like to admit it, there are definitely times when having a girlfriend comes in handy.
With Chinese New Year almost upon us, it was only yesterday there was a news report on the apparent booming boyfriend/girlfriend for hire industry in Taiwan, where singles hire out someone to fend off relative’s intruding questions about their love life.
Completely unable to relate to that experience, for me things are a bit more simple. A trip down to the newly opened Barbie Cafe in downtown Taipei was one of those times I was glad I wasn’t flying solo.
Curious but not wanting to look like I was the one who suggested we go there, the girlfriend obliged and dressed up to play the part of the Taiwanese princess with her handbag carrying slave in tow.
With her dressed in a bright pink dress with high heels and a small handbag, I shirted up with jeans and a jacket, punched myself in the balls a few times and jumped onto the scooter.
Here’s how dinner at Barbie Cafe went down.
Admittedly being Barbie and all I was expecting things to be pink… but right from the get go nothing quite prepared me for the sheer level of pink Barbie Cafe exposed you to.
There was pink everywhere, on the walls, on the floor, on the roof… I’ve walked into some pretty scary girls bedrooms here in Taiwan but Barbie Cafe took things to a whole other level.
What you’re look at above isn’t a photo of a dollhouse cross-section, it’s the actual seating area for diners. And there’s plenty more like it:
The seating areas weren’t standard and varied from eachother. You had the “plain” area in the mdidle but along the walls fancier seating areas:
Weird arse chair tutus weren’t the only oddity either, our chairs had strange little booties on:
Given that front one’s already starting to come off after not even a week, I don’t think they’re going to last that long.
On one wall you of course had little Barbie doll figurine scenes. Evidently Barbie isn’t the best of mothers:
That’s a kitchen scene and although you can’t really see it, there was a bunch of wine glasses on the floor surrounding Barbie’s daughter. Despite the smiles, one can only assume she passed out drunk.
All in all Mattel and Sinlaku, owners of the cafe (this is the first officially sanctioned Barbie cafe in the world) spent $50 million TWD ($1.6 million USD) decking the place out.
I have no idea when it comes to interior design costs but would have thought pink everything would have been a somewhat cheaper and straight forward affair. Seriously… $1.7 million? Holy crap.
Moving on to Barbie Cafe’s food, here you have a western menu with nary a Taiwanese dish in sight. I think the closest I saw was some green tea icecream, but buggered if I was going near that.
The menu even goes so far as to tell you (in Chinese) that the food will make you healthy, with each dish accompanied by a calorie count.
We ordered the dinner set,
which included a salad, soup, bread, appetizer, main course, dessert and one beverage.
Comically as you can see above there was a super slim image of Barbie next to the set menu… I’m no nutritionist but I’m pretty sure if you were regularly chowing down six course meals you ain’t gunna look like Barbie for long.
First up was our salad:
Nothing too special, bit of lettuce and veggies with some fruit and a sweet dressing. It was served however in what appears to be the offspring of a shot and martini glass.
Next up was our appetizer, the “Scallops Mentaiko”:
I have no idea what “Mentaiko” is (Japanese?), however I kind of feel like we chose the wrong appetizer. I know they’re supposed to be small but… seriously? I’ve eaten bigger kernels of popcorn.
Note that on its own, the above appetizer costs $150 TWD ($5 USD). To put that into guy terms, that’s more than an entire Big Mac Meal at McDonalds or over 1L of Taiwan beer.
After I blinked and my appetizer was gone, I then tackled the mushroom soup which was thankfully of a much bigger portion:
Coupled with the dipping bread, it wasn’t half bad.
Unfortunately at this point we learned that only one chocolate pudding cake dessert remained (we’d both ordered the same dessert), and as such we had to choose between what was left – green tea something or the other, taro something or the other or a mango cake thing.
Not a fan of either taro or green tea anything, I bit the bullet and changed my chocolate pudding cake for the mango cake.
I’ll go over our desserts a bit later save to say that upon selecting the mango cake, for some reason it was then brought out to us straight away. Only starting to get into our soup, needless to say the mango cake wound up sitting there for the remainder of our meal (no idea why they brought it out).
Following the abrupt arrival of half of our dessert, it was time for our mains. I’d ordered the “Hungary Goulash”:
Whilst “princess for the night” ordered the “Herb Crusted Pork Loin”:
My goulash was pretty good. Could have been a bit more tomatoey and I did have to add some pepper but considering the usual level of western food here in Taiwan I thought it was alright. Mind you after a few years my standards have probably slipped but after “Scallops Mentaiko” I was too hungry to care.
The Pork Loin was definitely better, although a bit on the dry side. They did give you some sauce to dip the pork into though, which kind of took the edge of the dryness (wouldn’t want to eat it without).
Finally it was then time for dessert, and when the chocolate cake came out I felt like punching myself in the nuts all over again:
Seriously, it looked so good I actually thought they’d covered the cake with a plastic cover when I first saw it.
Choking back thoughts of the chocolate cake being the best part of my meal, I refused to even try a bit of it, instead attempting a completely transparent effort to make her feel guilty about having me choose the mango (she doesn’t like mango but knows how much I love chocolate).
Don’t think it worked but I’m stubborn like that (I felt like flipping our table through the window when she told me she was full and couldn’t finish it).
Meanwhile not that it was bad or anything, but my mango cake clearly paled in comparison to the chocolate cake:
Note that I didn’t request the giant pink Barbie signage, that’s just how the cake comes (along with complimentary icecream which I think is part of the dinner set but not on the menu).
Taste wise I was hoping the Barbie sign might be strawberry chocolate or something but instead it was this greasy… I don’t know what stuff that kind of stuck together in your mouth and slowly dissolved. Chewing it for some reason didn’t make it go away any faster (think the nastiest Easter chocolate you can buy and oil refusing to disperse in water).
The mango cake on the otherhand was pretty good but chomping down on the pink Barbie decoration and little silver “pearl” balls, was easily one of the most homoerotic experiences of my life.
Speaking of homoerotic experiences, for some reason there are guys who actually want to work at Barbie Cafe:
Not sure as a guy why you’d want to work at Barbie Cafe, but there you have it. I don’t envy them, what with all the Taiwanese princesses this place is bound to have its fair share of “shit hitting the fan” spectacles.
Upon entering the cafe and taking our seats, we had to listen to the girl next to us interrogate her boyfriend as to what he was looking at.
It was probably this:
Note that the above is not my photo. Although it’s perfectly culturally acceptable here to do so, as a guy I still don’t have the heart to walk up to random girls and ask to take their photos (thank Christ).
Speaking of girls, I couldn’t help but notice the cleavage mirror installed above the seating area.
Running the length of chairs facing the wall, had there of been women sitting next to me I am positively sure I could have seen down their tops.
Anyway, getting back to the food… or drinks as it were, the girlfriend ordered the kiwi and apple smoothie:
Whilst I opted for what was supposed to be a mocha smoothie:
I say supposed to because whilst it was tasty in its own right, I’m pretty sure it was just a regular coffee smoothie. There wasn’t any chocolate in there to speak of.
After watching my girlfriend devour her chocolate cake, this was just another kick in the nuts to add to the list. I was starting to feel like Barbie had it in for me.
Not paying attention to the prices on the menu, I was a bit surprised to see the damage come in at a rather large $1870 TWD ($63 USD). Considering that’s the rough equivalent of four people at an all you can eat hotpot place, we paid a pricey premium for dining Barbie style.
I noted earlier wonderment at how the owners could fork out $50 million TWD to deck the place out – I think I now know why.
Definitely a place you don’t want to be seen without a girlfriend, date or partner, the Barbie Cafe pretty much goes hand in hand with the social culture alot of Taiwanese girls subscribe to.
Thankfully my girlfriend doesn’t fit that mould but if yours does, this might just be the place to take her on that special occasion. Just make sure you bring a fat wallet though or things could get ugly.
Whereas something like the Barbie Cafe would appear to be targeted at adolescent girls, here in Taiwan it was full of adults – mostly female. There was a birthday group a few tables down from us, a couple of families with kids but everyone else there was in their 20s to 30s and lapping up the atmosphere.
Situated in Taipei’s Zhongxiao Dunhua shopping district, apparently during the week the place is packed with calorie conscious office ladies and middle-aged shopping wives, looking to reclaim some of their lost youth.
Personally, like the whole Hello Kitty obsession, I find it just a wee bit creepy.
A stone’s throw from Dunhua North/South Road and ZhongXiao East Road (route 5), Barbie Cafe is pretty hard to miss:
And perhaps entirely just a co-incidence but what I’d like to think was an ode to irony, right next to the cafe you’ve got a bunch of plastic surgery clinics:
Not that I’m implying that Barbie isn’t all natural… but something’s up if this what she’s eating whilst keeping that figure!