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Asia's Theme Restaurants Offer an Unusual Bite

Various Photographers 


It used to be a restaurant attracted customers because of its cuisine, but with so many foods and drink options on offer fueled by expanding middle-class incomes, many Asian restaurants and coffee shops realize dining is more than what you put in your mouth. Asian based theme restaurants are blossoming, broadening the eating and drinking experience and displaying a palette of weird and wonderful dining experiences that turn a quick bite into an unusually memorable sensation.


At Hospitalis in Indonesia, the name says it all, and among offers on the menu are a blood transfusion of Mexican blood, actually strawberry syrup, that goes into your eyeball dessert tray, called Organ Surgery Parfait, only one of the medically themed  delicacies on hand, all made by your chef in a doctors hospital gown, and served by your nurse (aka waitress) in a nurses uniform. Snacks and champagne help creative juices flow, perhaps, as guests create a painted personal masterpiece at Bangkok’s Paintbar in Thailand, or take a seat on your toilet stool, and hoe into all sorts of squishy poo resembling offerings from toilet shaped bowls at Taipei’s Modern Toilet restaurant in Taiwan. Coffee might be more memorable with a chocolate Charlotte the Poison Spider under the creepy decorations at Kaethy the Witch tearoom and coffee shop, also found in Bangkok, and for something totally refreshing, head to Perak state in Malaysia and dip your feet under the restaurant table as you eat into the flowing Beruk river, as that is where you are seated when at the natural Castella Café.


S&M (Sadism and Masochism) fanciers have all at their fingertips at Ke'er restaurant in Beijing, meaning Shell, or you might choose to delve into a visual deep pool from your table in the Ocean restaurant in Singapore, set in an aquarium holding manta rays and leopard sharks. Not far away in the same city, be awed under a sky-scraper of a gin tower at the art deco themed Atlas Bar. You can dine in a bus in Vietnam, in vintage cars in Taiwan, in an upside down house, or a Hobbit House, in the Philippines, or with a Japanese robot sound and light performance at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s business and entertainment district. Or maybe get a killer cappuccino with a cat cuddle in Myanmar’s first cat cafe in Yangon, only the latest in the spread of such animal themed cafes where coffee and a pet cuddle go hand in hand.


But it is not all light-hearted entertainment of a modern world. Among the theme restaurants are those that draw on culture and tradition of long ago, that may have been slipping in contemporary memory. In Cambodia, Cafe Dei, fight back at dominating modern food offers with a traditional style of food and preparation using bamboo grilling that stems from tribespeople who live in Ratanakiri and Mondukiri provinces of northern Cambodia. And west Aceh in Indonesia boasts its upside down coffee shops – the coffee drank with a straw that addicts say intensifies that coffee flavour like no other.