Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Royal/T: High Kitsch High Tea

I've been wanting to check out Royal/T ever since I heard about the kitschy-weird cafe in Culver City with food served by Japanese girls in French maid outfits. When an old friend who's never been to L.A. came to visit last week, Royal/T popped up as a perfect venue to show my Kiwi friend an 'Only in L.A.' (and maybe Tokyo) experience. Set a few blocks east from the newly bustling downtown Culver City, the restaurant is easy to miss (despite the pink neon crown insignia and hedge-covered facade.) Upon arrival, we discovered it's actually more of a gallery/experimental space/shop/cafe shared within a spacious loft-style, communal space.

The current--and inaugural--exhibit, Just Love Me, is an exploration of all things cute, or, more accurately, "kawaii". So this means we were dining under paintings of Bambi-eyed animegirls, ceramic statues of cuddly Sanrio-esque aliens and Louis Vutton initialed art prints from famed pop-artist Murakami (who recently had his own exhibit at Moca). For sale were hipster-friendly items such as photobooks of Japanese trendsters in Gothic-Lolita garb, weird plush toys and of course, french maid dressed action heroines.

Like the Tokyo-pop style french maid costumes, the food is a mix of Japanese & French, with a bit of Caifornian thrown in. Lunch items were a mix of sandwiches (my friend Pip ordered the spicy tuna tar tar with avocado on sourdough$9.00), salads (such as yuzu shrimp with asparagus, tomatoes and avocado) rice bowls (I got the Royal/T curry rice with chicken $9.00)) and the Royal/T High Tea with tea, small patries, mini quiche, Kappa Maki, California roll and Spicy Tuna finger sandwiches ($19.50) Pip's sandwich looked good but I didn't love mine. I was expecting curry-flavored rice with chunks of white chicken'n'japanese curry gravy but got a bowl of curry sauce with a chicken drumstick and a side of steamed rice. They had interesting drinks such as watermelon juice, ginger lemonade and a selection of teas.

I don't know what it is about cute costumes, but everything did taste a little better when served by a Japanese maid, or, in our case, we also had a perky brunette sporting fake pigtail extensions. Although more Sanrio/Alice in Wonderland than fantasy-rated, our maids/servers were still a fun novelty, and super friendly, even obliging requests from the couple sitting next to us for a photo-op. I chickened out and covertly took a pic of the maid from behind instead.

Although the food's just okay, I wouldn't be opposed to going back to Royal/T, the gallery and store space is interesting and it's still a more entertaining alternative than Starbucks or Zen Zoo Tea for grabbing a cup of tea.

8910 Washington Blvd, Culver City
Lunch with a drink: Approx $15

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