Plus Alpha: Strawberry brains at Shinjuku's Capcom Bar

Plus Alpha is a weekly column that explores life in Japan from the perspective of American expatriate and game-industry veteran Jarik Sikat. Having worked in numerous areas of the game industry since 1994, Sikat relocated to Japan in 2010.

When Capcom and Japan’s Pasela Resorts first announced their plans to launch a Capcom-themed eatery in downtown Tokyo, I was already clutching my stomach in pain. After all, it was Pasela who was responsible for Activision’s Call of Duty pop-up restaurant debacle in Akihabara last year, which left me with a plate of cold meat and stomach cramps. With trepidation I headed to Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward, expecting the worst, yet hoping for the best. So I’m pleased to tell you this won’t another Survival Horror story.

Just a five-minute walk from one of Tokyo’s largest train stations lies Pasela Resorts Shinjuku. It isn’t so much a “resort” as it is a multi-story building that houses a dart bar, karaoke restaurant and event spaces for weddings and parties. Upon entering the lobby, I checked in for a 5 p.m. seating and received my meal order form. Unlike at most restaurants, customers at the Capcom Bar, or “CapBar”, aren’t seated when tables become available; instead, there are several seatings per day, each lasting for up to two hours. At the end of a seating, the restaurant is cleared and reset for the next group of diners. It’s much like the traditional dining format you’d find on a cruise ship.

With an hour to spare, I went through the menu, which boasted appetizers and salads, pasta, meat dishes, desserts and (of course) drinks based on the bar’s featured game series: Resident Evil, Ace Attorney, Monster Hunter and Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes. I turned in my order form and received my table assignment. Within a few minutes of settling down, my meal was already being served.

What you won’t find at the Capcom Bar are any Street Fighter-inspired dishes. For that matter, you’d be hard pressed to find a single arcade game. Inside the tiny, 30-seat restaurant, there are several screens showing trailers, and three demo stations for Asura’s Wrath; though those remained untouched all throughout dinner. Everyone was far too busy taking pictures of their food.

Don’t expect to be able to order a beer here, either – but then, why would you, when the Capcom Bar has an amazing selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic mixed drinks? I opted for the T-Virus Vaccine (780 yen), a sweet whiskey highball served with a brain-shaped ice cube and an injection of blue curacao liqueur antidote.

For dinner, I chose the piping-hot Masamune Date “akashiyaki,” fried octopus dumplings made with an egg batter and served with a side of hot mustard (530 yen). Rounding out the meal was the Capcom Bar’s piece de resistance, the Resident Evil Brain Cake (680 yen). Yes, it looks even more disturbing in real life, and it only gets worse when the waiter hands you a knife and has you jab it into the frontal lobe. If zombies think human brains taste like strawberry cheesecake with a semi-sweet mocha frosting, though, I’d like to be one of the walking dead.

Throughout dinner, the servers were ready to entertain, quoting popular lines (in Japanese of course) from the games as they brought out each order. They were also ready to chat about Capcom games.

Along with a raffle during each meal, the Capcom Bar also offers two “stamp rallies.” Visit the eatery five times, and you’ll get one of five commemorative medallions emblazoned with the logo of one of the games featured at the restaurant. There’s also the Food & Drink Stamp Rally; if, over time, you order all 30 drinks or all 24 food items, you’ll receive a limited-edition collector’s item (which hasn’t yet been revealed).

If you’re planning to visit the Capcom Bar (or just want to learn more about it), be sure to check out the the official Capcom Bar website for a complete listing of menu items, photos, and more. Most of the site is in Japanese, but the navigation is in English. It’s not clear how long the Capcom Bar will remain open, but I know I’ll be heading back soon. If eating brains is wrong. I don’t want to be right.

Jarik Sikat has worked in the videogame industry in areas ranging from localization and product development to public relations and marketing. As a freelance journalist and writer, his work has appeared in PlayStation: The Official Magazine, Official Xbox Magazine and Newtype USA.