Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: J-Pop Cafe, Taipei

Address: 7F, 98, Chunghsiao E. Rd., Sec. 4, Taipei (台北市忠孝東路4段98號7樓)
Telephone: (02) 6636-5689
Open: 11:30am to 2am
Average meal: NT$400 per person
Details: redit cards accepted. Chinese menu with some English

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

J-Pop is about designer cute, retro chic and fusion cuisine.

PHOTO: YU SEN-LUN, TAIPEI TIMES

You would be hard-pressed to find a group of people more obsessed with Japanese trends than Taiwanese youth. And J-Pop Cafe Taipei is their mecca. The Taipei branch of J-Pop is the only one outside of Tokyo and the third store established by the J-Pop chain. In this trendy restaurant one can consume not only Japanese food, but also Japanese pop music, music videos, and all manner of pop-icon accessories including dolls, cell phone straps, and key holders. Everything here makes you want to open up your mouth and scream: "Kawayiiiiii!!!"

Shiny orange and pink neon lights catch one's eye immediately upon entering via the restaurant's sliding doors, from whence one proceeds through a mirrored room with brightly lit floors and more pink lighting. Welcome to dreamland. This is fantasy as the ultimate commodity. And you are surrounded by music videos by Ayumi Hamasaki, Hikaru Utada and Ken Hirai.

One design feature that melds pop music and eating and can be found at J-Pop is a table with a mini TV and headphones on each side so that patrons can imbibe music and videos while enjoying their food -- a good way to avoid those long and embarrassing pauses if your date happens to be a bore. You can both take the headsets and choose the music you want. The mini TV-jukebox has around 20 of the latest Japanese hits and is updated every month.

Food here is basically fusion cuisine with a Japanese flavor. For example, the mozzarella cheese with tomato comes in the shape of a nigiri sushi. And a set of sushi rolls come with a side of French fries. According to the chefs this was done to cater to the eclectic tastes of Japanese youth.

House specialties include cold noodles with plum sauce (梅香冷麵), udon noodles with shrimp pesto (鮮蝦青醬麵) and avocado tuna sashimi rice (酪梨鮪魚丼). The first of these has a light and refreshing taste, and its plum sauce is homemade. The avocado fish rice is most highly recommended. Tuna sashimi is diced and marinated in a light spicy sauce. The tuna goes very well with the avocado, and the rice makes the dish filling.

J-Pop is also a great place to go for drinks. After all, the interior is like a 1970s pub with a pinkish, Japanese ambiance. Make sure to check out the entire venue before choosing a seat, because there are different areas -- the bar, booths with curvy couches and tents for four people.

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