On July 31st, 2014, Square Enix opened the doors to its newest wonder of the world, the Final Fantasy XIV themed Eorzea Cafe, right in the epicenter of all things “otaku” and nerd-oriented: the legendary Akihabara electronic district in Tokyo. Like any avid fan of Japanese RPGs living in the Land of the Rising Sun, I took great interest and right away sprinted to my nearest train station. Over the past few years “themed” cafes and bars have been popping up left and right around Japan such as the infamous Gundam Cafe, AKB48 Cafe, and the now defunct Biohazard Bar. Each of these stores drew huge lines on their opening days and on a daily basis months afterwards. Knowing this beforehand, I prepared accordingly with plenty of music to listen to, my trusty 3DS, and a pocket full of patience. Little did I know that actually getting into the new cafe would require more than simply idling in a single line for a few hours…
Day 1: I arrived at the building where the cafe was located and very eerily did not see a single customer standing outside. I was instead greeted by staff members who I then inquired about what the deal was. They were quick to inform me that I needed a reservation beforehand, but I unfortunately could not make one at this time nor on the cafe’s website. They informed me that only way to get into the cafe and potentially make a reservation was to arrive at the cafe at around 9:45 AM the following morning. After asking what they meant by “potentially” they explained that the cafe has a very selective lottery system that they use to decide who can get in. Not entirely understanding what they meant, I bowed my head and vowed return.
Day 2: The day of reckoning! Upon arriving at 9:45AM, the long awaited crowd of eager Final Fantasy fans was oozing out the door of the building. I quickly realized that there was unfortunately more than one line. The staff explained the rules to me: in the main line customers were requested to wait in and eventually draw a lottery number from a box. After drawing a number, you are then asked to wait in a different area based on how high or low the value of your lottery number was. Afterwards, once your number is called you can then make a reservation to enter the cafe at a later time. Scratching my head and grimacing at the unneeded complexity of this system, I drew a number from the box…103. In total, there appeared to be about 150 people waiting and they were only currently calling people from the bottom (1 – 20).
I stood in a corner of the room, the downstairs lobby, huddled up with fellow Japanese nerds. Many lame jokes, Pokemon strategies, and Final Fantasy XIV events were discussed to ward off our pessimism. As the clock hit 10:30 AM, the staff had just begun calling numbers from the 60 – 80 range. Our moment of glory was approaching! But I then realized that the people whose numbers had been called ages ago were still waiting in a separate line to make their potential reservation. It was five minutes later when the curtain fell. An announcement was made, “Please return your lottery tickets!” The staff began ushering everyone out. The cafe must open by 11:00. Better luck next time! Many blinked in disbelief, some raged, a young girl started crying, and I went to get a beer.
Day 3: Dear god. So it didn’t matter if you got there earlier than anyone else. Your chances of getting into the cafe were completely based off luck and an unfair system of ordered number values. I figured that if I drew a number higher than 50 I might as well go home. Somehow, I brought myself to come back for a second round. This time, instead of lining people up out the door and in different corners of the room, the staff decided to have everyone line up the main stairwell of the building. This particular building housed several different shops and up 8 floors! Agh. To make a long story short, it was eventually my turn to draw a number. I closed my eyes, sighed and slipped my hand in. The number on my ticket? 13. Thirteen! I was immediately escorted down to the main lobby and into the main line. I was given the option of four different reservation blocks that each had a range of two hours. I chose from 7:00PM to 9:00PM.
In any case, on with my review…
The Eorzea Cafe offers customers a variety of both soft drinks and alcoholic drinks along with several other delicacies based on monsters, items, and character classes from the Final Fantasy games. While it’s not much bigger than a standard restaurant in the Tokyo area (in western countries we would call that “small”), the interior design is something to really behold. Dimly lit with a blue and yellow tint and wood paneling, the cafe gives off the atmosphere of the inside of a ship or old-fashioned storage room. Lined along the walls are several weapons such as staves, katanas, axes, and swords. At the front of the cafe is also some computers setup with Final Fantasy XIV loaded up and ready to play, for a small fee. Huddled around this computer set up are a group of Moogle statues held up into the air. Towards the back wall of the cafe HD TVs play footage and advertisements for in-game content, while various small “windows” near the dining tables display character artwork.
The food menu is quite varied and includes curry, hamburgers, soups, cheeses, fried chicken, pizza, salad, and desserts. Each order comes with something specifically designed after a Final Fantasy summon monster, such as the Titan burger which, well, comes with a seaweed cut-out that greatly resembles the Titan summon! Other such examples include Bahamut’s curry, Moogle honey toast (topped with cream that looks like a moogle!), and Ifrit’s flaming hot pizza. I found the food to actually be quite good and reasonably priced.
The drink menu is equally impressive and just as unique, expanding through 8 large, colorful pages of coffees, sodas, and cocktails. Some great drinks include the Warrior’s Red Wine, the Dragoon’s Energy Grape Soda, and the Knight’s Caramel Latte. To my dismay there was not a Phoenix Down drink on the menu. I ended up indulging in quite a few Ethers and X-Ethers. While in the Final Fantasy games these drinks are meant to restore one’s MP, in the Eorzea cafe they pack quite the alcoholic punch! To sober up I then drank a Potion, which appeared to be some sort of blue syrup mixed with club soda. In the end, before I left, I could not resist trying the neon pink Bahamut Mega Flare cocktail, a very tasty mix of parfait amour, grapes, and tonic. The morning after proved it to be one drink too many unfortunately.
In closing, Eorzea Cafe is a great experience with a very tasty menu that is surprisingly priced quite reasonably. Whether you be a Final Fantasy fan or not, I can highly recommended it on the sole basis of a unique dining experience…if you can actually get in. Although it’s been about a month since the cafe has been open, according to their website, the same system is still being used to make a reservation. Good luck!