Best described as a combination of a small train museum, a maid café, and an izakaya all rolled into one, the Little TGV train bar is an Akihabara experience that is sure to delight diners.
Everything about the Little TGV is original, from the characters to the menu items. They even created a fictitious rail company called New Akihabara Electric Railway, which you’ll see referenced on their menu and coasters, and throughout the dining space.
After you get to the 4th floor, you’re welcomed into the bar. There’s a 500 yen cover charge (less than $5 USD), and in return you’re given what looks like a train ticket, but it actually has information about the bar printed on it. It’s also proof that you paid the 500 yen cover. Hold on to your ticket, you’ll need it later!
Right away you’re greeted by cute, cheerful staff dressed in train conductor themed maid uniforms. Take a look around and you’ll notice that the entire bar is decorated with old train memorabilia. The booths are even old train seats! In the corner there’s a tiny model train running its course around the track. I hear that section is quite popular, so be sure to get a look at the train if you can.
After you find your seat, open the menu… and look at it closely. Little TGV put a lot of effort into all sorts of little details to make you feel like you’re really on a train. You’ll see that one page is set up like a real Japanese train map that helps you see all the prices and menu items at a glance-if you can read it, that is. The menu is in Japanese, but there are plenty of pictures to help you order. The menu is easy to understand, well laid out, and features adorable chibi versions of the Little TGV staff.
According to their website they refer to themselves as a pub, but I think their food and drink selection is much better than any izakaya that I’ve been to. I was surprised that their menu had salads, desserts, and some pasta dishes in addition to the standard fried foods and drinks that you’d expect at a bar. Personally, due to their services and menu selection I would call them a café or restaurant, but I can also see how the fact that they serve alcohol and have regular clientele makes it have more of an izakaya feel.
When you’ve decided what to order your hostess comes to your table and excitedly clacks the ticket puncher as she prepares to punch your train ticket. Now just sit back and wait on your order to depart the station and arrive at your table.
I ordered from their Special Menu and chose a few items to review. First I got two of their specialty drinks: the shinkansen themed E5 and E6 cocktails. The colors were vibrant and I found them to be cool, sweet and smooth; I almost didn’t want to mix the drinks and disturb the beautiful colors.
Then I ordered the NAER shinkansen train meal that came with deep fried chicken, deep fried shrimp, dipping sauce, a tomato slice, wedge fries, and rice. I am extremely picky about my fried food. If it is the slightest bit soggy I usually just pass it off to my husband, but their tempura was perfect. I was pleasantly surprised! It had just the right amount of crisp on the outside, while leaving the meat on the inside still tender and juicy.
Next, I was served their signature tamago maki (egg roll) dish. The rolls were decorated with nori (seaweed) cut out in the shapes of train windows, and rested on adorable little nori train tracks. In a word: adorable.
The server explained that she would exclaim “se no!” (Ready? Go!), then I was told to reply with gashan- or maybe it was gatan?- (the sound of the cars connecting) and when I said it she linked my little egg roll cars together. That part was a lot of fun, and is certainly similar to the interaction at maid cafes that we all know and love. It’s no surprise that this meal was also delicious. The eggs were soft and fluffy, and had just the right amount of sweetness.
Honestly, I was sad when it was time to leave. I wanted to keep ordering fun menu items and see what else they had to offer, but I was so full from the meal that there was no way that was happening. I had a lot of fun and will definitely be back to share the experience with my friends!
The Little TGV is a great place for otakus from around the world to visit; you don’t have to be a train fan or even speak Japanese to enjoy it. The next time you’re in Akihabara be sure to lose yourself for a little while in this train themed pub!