Chinese Café Eight is a chain of Chinese Restaurants with four Tokyo locations, including Roppongi, Shinjuku, Akasaka, and Ebisu, as well as another location in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. The restaurants all have a unique atmosphere with a few … er, interesting decoration choices, though I would have to vote Roppongi as the clear winner when it comes to conversational pieces.
Phallic decor aside, the menu options at Café Eight work with any budget – and with over 300 dishes to choose from, you’re bound to find something to try. The fact that all locations remain open around the clock makes this chain a great place to not only grab dinner, but also a late-night snack or two after a long night on the town.
I’ll admit, many of the dishes lean more towards the expensive side, like a full Peking duck (3980yen), or traditional Chinese hotpot with your choice of meats, vegetables and sauces (1360yen~). There are numerous other options in the 800-2000yen range that don’t really play nice with a cheapo’s wallet, so allow me to direct you to one of the more affordable options – the steamed meat dumplings.
When I first visited Café Eight in 2011, the price for a plate of 3 dumplings was 100 yen. Unfortunately the price has since gone up to 158yen, but I still think it’s a good deal. The dumplings come in over 20 varieties, such as eggplant, green onion, and red pepper. They’re surprisingly filling and can easily make a meal by themselves. The dumplings are all served on the same plate, so if you order more than one type, it might be a little hard to differentiate between them. You can always go with the flow and make a game out of it by ordering a few red pepper dumplings to hide among the lot (dumpling roulette, yeah!), or you could simply ask to have them separated when you place your order.
Next up – the starters menu. The dishes on this menu are all 280yen each. If you are not used to Chinese cuisine, the list offers a cheap way to sample foods that might be out of your comfort zone, like soy-marinated jellyfish, garlic pig’s feet, and pidan, which is a preserved egg often referred to as a Century egg. If your adventurous appetite takes control of your wallet, there are other, braver, options outside of the starters menu like deep-fried scorpions (2080yen) and silkworms (1030yen). Some less riskier options on the menu include a tropical glass noodle salad, marinated squid and garlic shoots, and spicy marinated vegetables with peanuts and beef.
As far as alcohol goes, standard cocktails are about 500yen each. There are also several fruit wines available for 420yen a glass. If alcohol is not your thing, standard soft drinks and juices are about 295yen each, and pots of Chinese tea are 600yen. The conversational pieces are always free, though.
While not everything on the Chinese Café Eight menu will appeal to the cheapo price-wise, the menu still has a ton of affordable items that can help push those unfamiliar with Chinese food out of their comfort zones. Combine that with the interesting atmosphere and around the clock service, and you have a cheap, authentic place to eat at any hour.