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18 January 2009

Otaku Ippiki goes abroad: Los Angeles' "Cafe Royal/T" review.

"Otaku Ippiki goes abroad" series is not over yet. In this new year:2009,
I'll post the 3rd overseas maid cafe report.

(日本語版は、こちらへ。The Japanese version is available here.)

Where did the Otaku Ippiki go? This time, It's "Cafe Royal/T", located in Los Angeles, California, USA. "Royal/T" started business in 2008. So, how is America's first maid cafe(*1)?  Here's my impression.
(Note: full marks is *****)

[Location: *]
Strictly speaking, Royal/T is not in downtown LA, but is located in the outskirts of Culver city . It's 20 mins away from downtown LA and LA int'l airport [a.k.a. LAX] by car. The location of Royal/T is not ideal for tourists. Apparently, it's not targeted at tourist money. If the cafe wants to attract tourists, it should be located near a LA-MetroRail station, I think.

LA is a typical US metropolis. For foreign travelers (including myself), LA is a very inconvenient city if you don't have a car (*2). To get to Royal/T, you need a car. If you are a solo tripper and have a driving license, the best way to access Royal/T is via a rental car. If you are travelling in a group, taking a taxi from LAX (or LA downtown) may not be a bad option.

As for myself, I gave up on public transportation while I was making plans, and reluctantly had to get a rental car from LAX to get around. It takes 15-20mins only for local drivers. However, I took more than twice the time despite using a PND. (It's slightly hard to find R405 highway entrance because it's very different from Japanese one(^^;...)

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(Besides PND, I have a handy GPS navi.)

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(This is the main entrance.)

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(Thay have a Japanese maid-cafe style AD.)

[Atmosphere/Interior: ****]
The real Royal/T is much bigger than its photo looks. I think that Royal/T is the biggest maid cafe in the world. The building has three sections (souvenir shop, exhibition corner, and cafe... Please refer to photos). It seems that the original building was a warehouse or a factory made out of wood. When I saw a news article, there was an exhibition of MURAKAMI Takashi's work. (I don't think MURAKAMI's work is of good taste. But I'd like to set it aside since this is a maid cafe review(^^;. (*3)

The maid cafe is like a boutique gallery-cafe. But it's very spacious.(Please see photos)

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(From the main entrance to the cafe)

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(There is an souvenir (or Otaku-goods?) shop near the main entrance.)

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(You can walk through to a back entrance.)

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(The cafe is very spacious.)

It has twenty 2-seater tables. However I don't feel cramped at all. The color scheme is wood and white. All the tableware is in white.
When I was there, it was around 13:00  (i.e. off-peak time). However, 70% of seats were already occupied. Business is good at Cafe Royal/T". As I observed, all the customers (excluding myself) are locals.

[Foods: ****]
The menu is limited. (you can see the same PDF-menu online.) Just like Cosafe-Singapore, It does not have Akiba-kei menu (eg. Moe Moe omurice) or entertainment service (ex. Cheki, and gaming with a maid) at all. I ordered a "Lunch set" menu that came with a starter, main dish, and one non-alcoholic drink. That cost $12.50++. I don't think that it's expensive given today's weak USD.

Here's what I had (Please see below photos.).

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The main dish is "Spicy tuna tartar"open sandwich(as shown above) . I never expected that it served raw tuna (just like Japanese cuisine). The main dish is satisfying, and was unexpectedly(?) tasty!

[Maids' attitude/Service: ****+]
When I visited there, there were two maid-sans wearing brown-colored maid uniform (please see a photo below). Their attitude is very impressive, and near perfect because they were very helpful, and never forgot to smile. That's certainly the maid cafe spirit(^^)!
They are Asian girls. At first, I thought that they were locals since they didn't have Japanese (or Asian) accent in their tongue. But when I tried to speak to them, I recognized that they were all truly Japanese. According to them, Royal/T has many Japanese maids.
It's simple but very good service that taking photos inside cafe (including maid-san) is free and always OK without notice. But they have no Akiba-style Moe services.

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(From the left to the right, Asuka-san, Mayumi-san)

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(Mayumi-san brings me a piece of cake.)

[Overall: ****]
"Cafe Royal/T" is an excellent maid cafe with a clearly defined concept (mass-market art cafe). I'm very pleased with its menu and service standard although it's very different from a genuine Akihabara-style maid cafe.  If you know Cosafe-Singapore, "Cafe Royal/T" is just like an American version of Cosafe. The only regrettable drawback is its location. Still, I would recommend "Cafe Royal/T". If you have a chance to visit LA, do visit "Cafe Royal/T".

[Tips for all foreign guests]
*Royal/T has are closed(or chartering) on some days, it's better to ask business days/hours in advance. Royal/T will give you a good response to email enquiries.

*A/C outlet for PC is available in some seats.(Please see below)

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* Do include a tip even if you are paying by credit card as tipping is 'mandatory' in US.

[Tips for those driving there]
*Free parking(please see a photo below) is available at Royal/T. The lots are located along with a back street, not along with Washington Blvd.

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It's may be tricky to find for those unfamiliar with the area. You may find a parking lot along with Washington Blvd, next to Royal/T, but it's belongs to another company which is noting to do with Royal/T .

*I recommend road side parking meters just in front of Royal/T along with Washington Blvd. It's hassle free, and cost only a quarter[25 cents] for 30mins.

[Misc: Gallery photos]

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[Note]
1) If you consider the whole of  North America, Ontario's "i-maidcafe" could have been the first maid cafe. But it went out of business in 2008.

2) I think that LA is unique(It’s very “Los Angelized”.). The nearby metropolis(like San Francisco[SFO], Las Vegas[LAS]) are more tourist friendly. Both SFO and LAS has efficient and convenient public transportation networks, and the main attractions are concentrated in the heart of the city.

3) I know that MURAKAMI Takashi is well regarded in Europe and US as "standard-bearer" for contemporary art. But MURAKAMI's reputation is so bad in Japan.
Ippanjin(non-Otaku) never knew the name of MURAKAMI Takashi. MURAKAMI is considered as trickster (conman?) and Otaku's public enemy No.1 in Japan. This is not because people are jealous of Murakami's commercial success but because many (including me) have strong doubts of his talent. Japan has lots of better talents than MURAKAMI.. I think that the reason why MURAKAMI is over-rated is because of MURAKAMI's ability to market himself(*4). I'd like to talk about MURAKAMI Takashi at the next opportunity.

4) Related this matter, MURAKAMI once wrote a strange titled book "An essay on art enterprise"(芸術起業論).

[Cafe/Restaurant DATA]
Name    : Cafe Royal/T
Address : 8910 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232, USA
Phone   : +1-310-559-6300
Business time: (Please refer to the HP)
Official HP  : http://www.royal-t.org/
email   : cafe@royal-t.org

[Related articles(Links to other maid cafe reviews)]
Otaku Ippiki goes abroad: [2008.10] Maid Date/Hong Kong
Otaku Ippiki goes abroad: [2008.05] Cosafe/Singapore
--------------------------------------------------------------

[2013 Comment]
Unfortunately, This  "Cafe Royal/T" was closed down in 2012.

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Comments

This is an excellent field report! It's interesting to know the Japanese perspective of overseas otaku activities

Posted by: Ex-Zer0 | 18 January 2009 at 05:29 PM

Thank you for a comment. "Otaku Ippiki goes abroad" series is still going on. Please stay tuned(^^). Thanks.

Posted by: don777-ax | 18 January 2009 at 08:57 PM

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