If you’re a long-time Nintendo Life reader, or a devout Kirby fan, then you might remember that time Nintendo opened a small chain of Kirby-themed pop-up restaurants across Japan – christened Kirby Café, appropriately enough – in 2016.
Beginning with its first temporary location in Osaka, that was quickly followed by two more in Tokyo and Nagoya. While all three locations only operated for a couple of months each, Kirby Café Tokyo popped up once again in 2018 and proved so popular with fans of the “powerful, pink puff” that it was ultimately reopened as a permanent establishment in 2019. Despite serving patrons for going on four years now (only two of which were during the fabled Before Times), Kirby Café Tokyo remains one of the most exclusive themed restaurants in all Japan – perhaps only rivaled by Kirby Café Hakata.
And it’s little wonder, too. Not only is it located in the Tokyo Solamachi shopping complex at the base of Tokyo Skytree, the metropolis’ most treacherous tourist trap, but the menu is just so gosh darn cute.
In fact, it wasn’t long after I read our recent coverage of the Kirby Café special summer menu that I began trying to reserve a table for two — Tokyo address has its privileges, after all — but it turns out that tables are only available through online reservation. Online reservations for the following month, meanwhile, can only be made beginning at 6:00 pm on the 10th of every month, and are about as stress-free to secure as a Nintendo Classic Mini preorder.
When eighteen-hundred hours exactly eventually arrived on 10th July, I got relatively lucky and managed to reserve two seats for 1:55 pm on 7th August after refreshing the online reservations page dozens of times over the course of a half hour or so. Coincidentally, two of my coworkers also had hopes of devouring a car-mouth Kirby cake together this summer, but it reportedly took them well over an hour to do the same.
After nearly a month of getting hype, my partner and I finally arrived at Tokyo Skytree Station on an uncomfortably humid and overcast Sunday afternoon. Evidently, Tokyo Skytree is the world’s tallest tower and the third tallest structure on the planet, and it was built in part to revitalize Sumida. As such, it’s surrounded by numerous lesser attractions, from hundreds of retail stores and restaurants to a planetarium and an aquarium, so it took us some wandering around Tokyo Skytree Town before we found the East Yard on the 4th floor of Tokyo Solomachi where Kirby Café Tokyo is located.
With the sun beating down on us through a break in the clouds, we waded through a large crowd gathered around a street magician, occasionally stopping to snap photos of the 634-meter-tall broadcasting tower looming directly over us before bumping into an illuminated statute of Kirby and Waddle Dee beckoning us to stop by the Kirby Café.
Entering the magic Kirb-dom
Like many restaurants in Japan, stools were lined up outside for waiting customers. Unlike most restaurants in Japan, however, an enthusiastic server soon herded those of us waiting outside into a small group, verified our online reservations, and proceeded to orient us to the café, explaining the rules for ordering, COVID-19 protocols, and generally managing our expectations for the availability of the car-mouth Kirby cake.
Once that spiel was out of the way, she began letting parties into the café one at a time, offering us the option of taking photos at the entrance in front of a comically oversized Kirby Café plate while holding a comically over-sized Kirby Café fork and spoon. Feel welcome to post your best guesses in the comments below, but I’m not going to spoil what the server said in lieu of “Cheese!” as it was a genuinely delightful surprise.
Thanks to the Neverending Pandemic, the café appeared to only be operating at half capacity with the best social distancing precautions I’ve seen any restaurant take in Japan. Besides an entrance straight out of a theme park, the rest of the café was tastefully low-key, save for a giant Whispy Woods growing from a round table smack-dab in the middle of the dining area. If you look hard enough, however, you can find the occasional figurine here and there, such as a tiny Kirby inhaling tiny apples and a tiny Waddle Dee waving from a decorative wreathe.
The chill vibes were accented by vaguely familiar Kirby tunes, specially arranged and recorded for Kirby Café by the musicians at HAL Laboratory to assure maximum relaxation. In fact, you might want to pick up both volumes of the Sound of Kirby Café should you have the chance, since they’re exclusively sold on CD at Kirby Café and Kirby Café The Store (no international shipping for online orders, predictably).
Stars, ‘Dees, and Kirbuttocks
We happened to be shown to two seats directly behind Whispy Woods, and while I imagined the seats directly in front of the iconic first-level boss would have provided better photos of his summer best, nearly every table in the café boasted something unique and special to point at and exclaim, “Kawaii!”
I imagined the omurice would be the best dish on the menu at a café like this, but since I had trouble deciding on just one thing, I ended up ordering the Waddle Dee avocado soy burger with spaghetti and meat sauce since it came with a little bit of everything. My partner, on the other hand, seized a rare opportunity to enjoy a seafood dish in my presence and ordered the lomi-lomi salmon and avocado over rice, served inside a Waddle Dee. While I had the option of paying an extra fee to take my plate home with me as a souvenir, my partner got to take her lidded plastic bowl home for free.
For a drink, I ordered an iced cafe au lait, which came with my choice between three impossibly adorable marshmallows: Kirby riding a Warp Star, Waddle Dee snoozing on a cloud, and for some reason, Kirby’s – ahem – buttocks. Naturally, I was tempted to order the buttocks, but my better half convinced me to order the Warp Star for the benefit of this very article. Unfortunately, she opted for a simple, no-frills iced coffee, but both of our drinks came with a choice between several paper coasters, which we were also allowed to take home for free as souvenirs. Should you ever have the chance to visit any of these cafés while in Japan, I would recommend telling the server when you would prefer to enjoy your drink, otherwise whatever you order will be brought to your table as soon as it’s ready.
What a Mouthful
Of course, we had no choice but to order the mouth-car Kirby cake from the special summer menu.
Before entering the café, we were warned that the cake was limited to one per table and could take upwards of 45 minutes to prepare due to its popularity. So, we were surprised when it arrived together with our meal shortly after our drinks. Again, I personally would have preferred the cake to have been served after the meal along with our drinks, but the service was otherwise friendly and attentive.
And although the meal was honestly no better than any school lunch I ate during my stint as an English teacher in Japan, the cake was astonishingly decent. To be sure, it was the perfect dessert for the summer heat, served nice and chilled while neither being too tart nor sweet. The bulk of the confection was made out of a strawberry-flavored blancmange set atop a thin slice of sponge cake that sported chocolate and cheese wheels, a pretzel stick bumper, and apple feet. Before digging in, I felt strangely compelled to apologize to the game item so lovingly brought to life before us.
The café generously offered us an hour and a half to take pictures, enjoy our meals, and shop for souvenirs but requested that we order everything we wanted to eat or drink up front and not add on to our order later. Let the diner beware: the portions are far smaller than the pictures or prices would otherwise lead you to believe.
Exit through the gift shop
When you’re good and ready to leave, both you and your wallet will have to survive a perilous journey through the souvenir shop.
You could be forgiven for mistaking this area of the café for Kirby Café The Store, but it’s actually a glorified impulse shopping isle. The real store is located on the other end of the building, down the hall and directly across from the Pokémon Center.
Don’t forget to check in at the kiosk with your Nintendo Account before paying your check to grab a free Kirby Café sticker, and bring at least a month’s pay with you to Kirby Café The Store as it’s brimming with exclusive merch, be it a giant Chef Kirby plushie, a pouch fashioned after a Kirby burger, or a replica refrigerator magnet of the very Kirby pizza you ordered. And while you’re here, you may as well buy a ticket and ascend 450 meters to the upper observation deck of Tokyo Skytree for a panoramic view of Godzilla’s old stomping grounds like we did.
“Delicious times, precious memories” indeed.
We’d like to thank Sakura Shibue, Jessica Lin, and Phoebe Ho for generously contributing additional photos to this article. If you’re in Japan and want to visit this Kirby Café, you can make a reservation via the official Kirby Café Tokyo website.