You can tell what a region’s culture and mannerisms are like by what amuses the locals. You can tell what a region’s geography is like by the food served there.
This list essentially combines these two things, food and entertainment, and brings you the most outstanding and unique dining experiences in Asia. A lot of these cafes and restaurants are beautiful in their own way, sometimes the stories and motivations behind them are touching, and other times, they involve quite a bit of touching.
But, in all honesty, some of these places will leave you more confused and curious than anything. Either way, bon appetit!
1. Dreamy Camera Cafe - Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
With as many surprises as a Korean drama and a dreamy atmosphere that no Instagram filter can fake, this surreal camera-shaped cafe will capture your heart. The Dreamy Camera Cafe building, constructed to resemble a Rolleiflex camera, was the brain child of former army pilots Park Sung-hwan and Kwak Myung-hee. The two-storey space was designed with a camera theme and with the vision of being a safe space for people to take some time and visualise their own dreams. With fans from all around the country and the world, it’s clear that the Dreamy Camera Cafe serves its purpose as a break from the pressure cooker nature of Korean society, providing a treasured sanctuary in the countryside.
꿈꾸는사진기-Dreamy Camera Cafe
Address: 341-13, Jung-won-ri, Yongmun-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, Korea 476-843 Yangpyeong
Opening Hours: 11 am - 6 pm, closed on Sundays and Mondays
Access: Take a cab from Yongmun station (용문역) and give instructions to driver to go to 중원리 꿈꾸는 사진기
Contact: +82 31-771-3264
Website: 꿈꾸는사진기-Dreamy Camera Cafe
2. Bugs Cafe - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
C'mon, we’re talking about Asia; you knew bugs would turn up somewhere in this article. But, unlike the usual grubby fair of fried scorpion on a satay stick, this restaurant aims to serve original gourmet dishes with their bugs. The Bugs Cafe menu features dishes such as the delicious Bug Mac, complete with a delicious bug patty. Feeling peckish? Order one of the sides like tarantula tempura or giant waterbug skewers. Okay, most would feel squeamish while thinking about the dishes here, but honestly, if so many generations have enjoyed insects as snacks before us, and scientists predict insects will be part of a sustainable diet in the future (a pound of crickets takes 1,000 times less water to raise than a pound of beef), they can’t taste too bad. Many cite a mostly nutty flavour, with variation from region to region.
Address: Angkor Night Market Street / Bugs Street Siem Reap, Siemreab-Otdar Meanchey, Cambodia
Opening Hours: 5.30 pm - 11.30 pm
Access: 6-minute walk from Siem Reap Night Market
Contact: (+855)17.764.560 / (+855)89.935.007
Website: Bugs Cafe
3. Era Coffee shop - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
4. Pyongyang Koryo - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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5. Cabbages and Condoms - Bangkok, Thailand
6. Boys Love Academy Cafe - Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan
Maid cafes are world famous, with waitresses who provide tons of cutesy ‘moe’, entertainment, and expensively decorated food in abundance. Even butler cafes are becoming mainstream, with pop-up stores turning up at anime conventions all around the region. But in the female-oriented, pop-culture-rich area of Ikebukuro is a dashing offering of a new breed of (fan) service.
The Boys Love Academy Cafe is themed after a popular genre of female-oriented fiction, BL (Boys’ Love). It centres around steamy romances between heart-breakingly beautiful men, and this cafe is a result of those immensely popular fantasies trickling into reality.
Pay for the cute guys to make out over pocky (Japanese snacks) while you enjoy your tea and omurice (omellete with fried rice). With so much eye candy around, you’ll have no space for desert.
Boys Love Academy Cafe
Address: 3 Chome-9-13 Higashiikebukuro, 2F Toshima-ku, Tokyo-to 170-0013.
Opening Hours: weekdays - 3 pm to 10.30 pm, Saturdays - 12 noon to 5 am (next day)
Duration: 60 mins
Access: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Ikebukuro Station East Exit
Contact: +03 5985 4157
Website: Boys Love Academy Cafe
7. AndSoForth - Singapore
The format of this pop-up restaurant is a little different. AndSoForth is an immersive dining experience that is wrapped around a story with actors who will entertain you while you feast. This multi-sensory experience takes inspiration from London’s underground dining sub-culture. The events leading up to the actual feast are shrouded in mystery; only on the day of the feast itself will you be told where to meet for the dining experience. Every few months, AndSoForth releases a new storyline or theme for you to take part in. As guests, you are held to secrecy after the show; after all, you’ve become part of the secret.
Duration: around 3 hours required
Access: It is announced the day before the event. Singapore
Contact: +65 9129 7845
Website: And So Forth
8. The Bar Stock Exchange - Mumbai, India
This concept is so nerdy and we love it. At the Bar Stock Exchange, prices of alcohol rise according to demand, just like you’re dealing with stocks in real time. The bar is extremely loyal to its theme; it has LED panels displaying the rise and fall of the market, an app for you to track your progress, and you can even see how well sales are going with the charts it generates.
This bar came about while the owners were trying to figure out how to pull crowds in on weekdays. The exciting, game-like format of purchasing drinks was an addictive experience that made consumers want to come back all the time and, as a result, the establishment’s revenue tripled. If this sort of thrill is right up your alley, check out this fun bar.
The Bar Stock Exchange
Address: Plot No.89, Pipeline Road, Safed Pul, Sakinaka, Sakinaka, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400072, India
Opening Hours: open 24 hours
Access: 14-minutes from the airport via Airport Road
Contact: +91 82680 01181
Website: The Bar Stock Exchange
9. Ser Wong Fun 1895 - Hong Kong
The Cantonese consider snake to be a rather ‘heaty’ food, meaning that it’s great for warming the body during the winter months. Snake soup might seem a little off at first, but, in the not-so-long-ago past, it was a popular dish when the weather got cold.
However, younger generations are not so open to the idea of consuming a creature with a more ‘creepy’ reputation, leaving these snake soup shops to become more of curiosities rather than the common eating places they used to be.
Ser Wong Fun 1895
Address: 30 Cochrane St, Central, Hong Kong
Opening Hours: 11 am - 10.15 pm
Access: 9-minute walk from Central Station
Website: Ser Wong Fun 1895
10. Robot Restaurant - Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Robot dances, neon colours, and flashing lights everywhere, this is definitely not a place you’d go to for a relaxing night out, but it sure is an experience. Head here for this trippy, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
My words probably don’t do it justice, so please check out the website to see for yourself the kaleidoscope of lights and mechanics this restaurant provides.
Opening Hours: 4 pm - 11 pm. Timings differ on public holidays
Access: 8-minute walk from Shinjuku Station
Contact: +81 332005500
Website: Robot Restaurant
11. Modern Toilet - Taipei, Taiwan
Remember toilet jokes? Making poo poo puns is a faux pas in the ‘adult world’, but it would be a waste if you couldn’t even crack a smile at the mischievous antics of the world famous Modern Toilet. All of its plates, bowls, and dessert plates are toilet themed. You can take your pick; some are in the shape of a modern toilet bowl, others are like traditional Asian squat toilets, and some food is served in a miniature sink.
Dont worry, they are sanitised and safe to eat from. There’s no actual poop here, but the menu does have some dishes with names like ‘poop meatballs’.
It’s not surprising, considering that this restaurant concept did start out with serving swirls of chocolate ice cream from toilet bowls. Somehow, the innocent, funny way all of this is presented makes lame toilet jokes kind of cute.
Modern Toilet Restaurant
Address: 2F, No 7,Ln 50,Xining S. Rd., Taipei City
Opening Hours: 11.30 am - 10 pm Mondays to Thursdays. 11.30 am - 10.30 pm Fridays. 11 am - 10.30 pm Saturdays. 11 am - 10 pm Sundays.
Access: 5-minute walk from Ximen station
Contact: +886 2 2311 8822
Website: Modern Toilet
12. Alcatraz E.R - Shibuya, Tokyo
Out of all the places on this list, I think this is one place which needs a warning. DEFINITELY not for children and not for the easily squeamish, Alcatraz E.R is based around the concept of an asylum run by corrupt and evil staff. If you think that this is just limited to creepy decor and the occasional maniacal laughter, you’re wrong.
This restaurant also has an interesting menu; there’s their famous contraception juice, which is lychee and grape with a side of a condom filled with milk. Many of the drinks are fed to you by sexy, scary nurses too. The dishes don’t hold back either; one of the hot entrees is called ‘Resectioned Liver’, which is an omelette shaped like a liver, soaked in red sauce, and dyed to look like a bloody organ. There’s also a dessert that comprises reddish jelly on a sanitary pad. There’s other, even more explicit things on the menu that I really shouldn’t describe on this family-friendly website.
There are also, from time to time, ‘shows’ that simulate insane prisoners running loose on the compounds.
If you’re really out there and this is your sort of thing, don’t miss this restaurant.
Address: 2-13-5 Dogenzaka, Harvest Bldg 2F, Shibuya 150-0043, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening Hours: 5 pm - 11 pm
Contact: +81 337707100
Access: 6-minute walk from the Shinsen Station on the Keiko-Inokashira Line
Website: Alcatraz E.R
13. Ristorante Delle Mitre - Manila, Philippines
If the previous establishment on the list was a little too wild for you, here’s something to cleanse your soul. Ristorante Delle Mitre is run by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Ecclesiastically themed and with an intention to serve the nation’s hardworking religious servants at heart, the restaurant serves dishes named after famous religious figures, bishops, and sisters. Most recipes also come from the nuns and bishops that the restaurant serves.
The restaurant doubles as a museum that features bishops’ robes, posters of psalms, and historical photos / artefacts from the Catholic Church. It’s got great food too, apparently, and part of the proceeds go to feeding the poor and less fortunate. If you’d like to hang out with priests and the like while chowing down on some traditional Filipino food, this place has got you covered.
Ristorante Delle Mitre
Address: Opposite San Agustin Church, Real St, Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening Hours: open 24 hours
Access: 16-minute walk from Manila City Hall
Contact: +02 559 5220 / +02 404 9372
Website: Ristorante Delle Mitre
14. Fangweng Restaurant - Hubei Province, China
Fangweng Restaurant serves up regular Chinese fare, including some catches of fresh seafood. The walk up to the dining area gives you arresting views of the Chang Jiang River. It’s recommended that you come here during the day, as the light makes for great views. The area is pretty popular with the locals as it’s filled with activities like hiking and bungee jumping, so you could try one of those out after lunch at this great spot.
Address: Xiling Gorge
Opening Hours: 9 am- 9.30 pm
Access: Take bus #10 from Yuanjiang Avenue bus station
15. Van Gogh is Bipolar - Quezon City, Phillipines
NATURAL FOOD IS NATURAL MEDICINE @ van Gogh is Bipolar. now serving 12PM-12 MNPosted by van Gogh is Bipolar on Monday, 17 October 2016
This restaurant has a strange name and, with its messy, moody decor, can come across as a little eerie. But Van Gogh is Bipolar is a testimony to how painful experiences can give birth to one-of-a-kind food and haunting art. The owner of this place, Jetro Rafael, is an artist, and he has been diagnosed as bipolar. This abode / restaurant is a result of him experimenting with different foods and the chemicals that make them, with the philosophy in mind that food can alter moods and make people happier. The eclectic mishmash of art on the walls heightens the feeling of being inside a creative, erratic mind.
The foods presented are interesting and unique, many of them served with ingredients like flower petals and rare dark brown rices. Overall the place promotes creativity, relaxation, and a healthy, free mind; the Facebook page constantly provides tips for mental health and wellness. With so many rave reviews and such an interesting look, this place is a must visit while in the area.
Van Gogh is Bipolar
Address: 154 Maginhawa, Diliman, Lungsod Quezon, Kalakhang Maynila, Philippines
Opening Hours: 12pm - 15pm, 18pm - 23pm
Contact: +63 922 824 3051
Website: Van Gogh is Bipolar
That's not all ...
There were a lot of unique restaurant and cafe choices that had to be left out but we offer you here the best of the best dining experiences. By the time you read this article, a few more interesting concept restaurants might have popped up! This reflects Asia’s ever-changing nature, especially in these fast-paced times. There is a lot more to explore of Asia’s culinary scene, so keep going down the rabbit hole and look out for curiouser and curiouser places to have your next meal.
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