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Pink, fluffy dining at the 'Kirby' cafe

Engadget Engadget 28/09/2016 Mat Smith

© Provided by Engadget

If you didn't know, Kirby is a squidgy pink ball. With minimal facial features. That's about it. Which is why he's adorable (and popular) enough to warrant a whole bunch of merchandise, as well as temporary pop-up cafes across Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Japan isn't lacking for gaming culture -- in fact, we've already toured a few in our guide to Tokyo. It's just a shame that this one is a temporary arrangement. If you're a fan of all things pink and circular, get to Japan while you can: The Kirby Cafe closes at the end of October and you need a ticket to merely get inside. Even if you're able to get in, though, can you stomach a Kirby pancake?

Created by Masahiro Sakurai (of Smash Bros. fame), Kirby's simple design was intended as a placeholder midway through game development. However, Sakurai decided to keep it as the final character design. In fact, at one point duringdevelopment of the first game, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to change the character from pink to yellow, which sounds outrageous now. Not that it mattered much back then: The game launched on the monochrome Gameboy.

The character's Tokyo pop-up site has been hugely popular. To get into either the cafe or the shop you have to receive a ticket, given out early each day. I got there before 9am, and my shop slot was midday (for a shop!) and 1pm for the cafe itself. The food looked great and fortunately tasted pretty good, especially for what might otherwise have turned out to be a gimmicky theme eatery.

The place is a branded takeover of a relatively decent (if not all that notable) Italian brasserie, which ensured most of the dishes and desserts were made from fresh ingredients, cooked in-house. Fear not, though: There are still plenty of stars, power-up strawberries and rainbows.

I tried as much of it as I could. "Waddle-Dee Hayashi rice" is thinly-sliced beef cooked slowly in red wine, added to a well-seasoned demi-glaze sauce. The rice came with grilled vegetables on the side, with star-shaped pickles scattered around it. (It's a Japanese thing.) This all comes together on the plate looking like the face of a Waddle-Dee. (The Kirby universe's version of a Super Mario's goomba.) I didn't feel short changed by the quantity of food, and it was pretty delicious for Hayashi rice. Meanwhile, I sipped a "Dream Fountain Sparkling Cocktail" (pink grapefruit juice, Blue Curacao), which was far more unremarkable. The star-topped muddler was the best part. But the menu states in print that I wasn't allowed to steal keep it.

The Kirby pancakes were the highlight of my visit. A substantial layer of cream, flavored and colored with raspberry puree, laid on top of two thick, fluffy pancakes, decorated with raspberry sauce and berries. It felt like a shame to ruin the presentation by actually eating it. The first cut was the deepest. And then I vacuumed it all up in seconds, Kirby-style. I wrapped up my visit with arguably the laziest menu option: a cappuccino decorated with a Kirby stencil, cocoa powder and a splash of fruit syrup. (The coffee itself was fine.)

After all that food, I paid a second visit to the store. Kirby's popularity meant that some bags, soft toys and tees had already sold out, but my blood sugar-level was high: I left with a fridge magnet and Japanese-style hand cloth.

The food isn't cheap, but it tastes good and is surprisingly faithful to the character's design -- which is why I'm paying so much for pancakes and rice. I also wanted to test out Whispy Woods salad and focaccia. Here's the whole menu: It looks the part. Tokyo's Kirby Cafe trades in cute and pink foodstuffs until October 30th.

Kirby Cafe (Japanese)

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