Japanese robot restaurant to pop-up in Sydney

A show a The Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.
A show a The Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Getty Images

When I heard that party travel brand Contiki was bringing a Robot Restaurant pop-up to the Sydney nightclub and cabaret venue Slide Bar, I laughed and thought: 'how appropriate'.

Then I pre-registered to book tickets.

Because I was at the infamous dinner show while on holiday in Tokyo last month, and hadn't laughed so much in years.

Big in Japan: Kate Cox (far right) enjoys a night out at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo.
Big in Japan: Kate Cox (far right) enjoys a night out at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo. Photo: Supplied

Japan is known for thinking big when it comes to hospitality. They have more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other country. And whether you're eating at one or at a hole-in-the-wall, what you're served up will be some of the best food you've ever had.

Pretty much any niche is catered for. There are conversation bars where guys and girls are encouraged to chat, stand-up restaurants, others that only serve intestines, or where you catch your own fish, and cat cafes where you BYO feline or cuddle someone else's.

Well-known themed restaurants include Alice in Wonderland, Alcatraz ER, S&M, French maids, ninjas – and robots.

Japanese-based mates had urged us not to go to the Robot Restaurant. It was kitsch, we'd get better food in the combinis (local convenience stores, which are everywhere), only tourists go, they said.

And they were right.

It was tacky, but in a hilarious, over-the-top fashion. It was mostly filled with tourists, and the few Japanese locals in the audience appeared more horrified than entertained.

And, although it's billed as a dinner show, no-one goes for the food – basic bento boxes and edamame beans, plus western food.

They go for the showmanship, the noises, the bright lights and impossible plot where the viewer can do little more but sit back and laugh in surprise. It's loud, bright, hilarious. Girls in short skirts and midriff tops riding sharks and fighting giant pandas. A Chinese dragon. Cartwheeling dancers. A giant gladiator robot dual. Over the top light and laser shows. Electric guitars and bongos. Really sparkly decorations. Even more sparkly performers.

It's not a cultural Japanese experience, but it is a lot of fun.

Drinks are good value, with a fembot arriving with a keg on her back to retop thirsty punters every break. (This is a new thing, I'm told, and wonder if it's due to the growing number of antipodeans in the audience.)

For the four of us, it cost Y22,000 (about AUD $200), plus food and drinks (about Y5,000 for beers, Y1,000 for the bento box).

After the show I spotted the people sitting in front of us. They were rebooking again for the following night.

Tickets for Robots Unrivalled are on sale ($40 per person, including a Japanese bento box) through Moshtix, go to contiki.com/robotsunrivalled to secure your seat. The two-day pop-up (February 23-24, at Slide nightclub, 41 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst) promotes Contiki's new, 13-day Japanese tour, Japan Unrivalled.

Correction: The original version of this story listed an incorrect conversion from Japanese yen to Australian dollars. This has been amended in the text.