NOTE: As of late July 2012, Royal/T has closed
A giant white animal sculpture welcomes you. You are then greeted by female servers wearing fanciful maid uniforms. Offbeat gifts such as pillbox hats shaped like food are on display. Welcome to the magical kingdom of Royal/T, a combination art gallery, retail boutique and ‘maid cafe’ in Culver City.
The aesthetics of the 10,000 square foot space are inspired by the ‘maid cafes’ and ‘Cosplay restaurants’ of Tokyo’s Akihabara district, where servers dress as high-end maids and butlers. Around the millennium, these hot spots started cropping up in the region. It’s hardly surprising that the concept migrated to West LA--home of the famous Asian style-infused Sawtelle neighborhood.
Royal/T--which has been known to host theme events--is a favorite among LA enthusiasts of the Japanese ‘Cosplay’ (costume play) and ‘Gothic Lolita’ styles. These counter-culture fans enjoy dressing up in frilly childlike and often flamboyant costumes (think: Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Mad Hatter and ‘Claudia’ from Interview With the Vampire). The gallery/cafe also attracts lovers of contemporary Japanese inspired pop art. And then there are the patrons who just come there for the whimsical high tea service.
The Maid Cafe at Royal/T
You don’t need to go to Ginza to experience Tokyo culture when you have a virtually genuine Japanese cafe just around the corner. Royal/T serves authentically Japanese dishes like ponzu salmon, an array of rice bowls (with teriyaki steak, tofu and vegetables, and eel) and Zenzai plates such as Wagyu beef sliders, albacore tuna tataki and crispy spicy tuna, all day long. Their goal is to fuse Japanese, European and California food styles.
In the European realm, high tea--though most traditionally taken between 3 and 5 p.m.-- is available all day. The delightful service--enhanced by the costume-clad waitresses--includes a choice of tea, with dessert sampler (of the cafe’s specialty desserts), mini-quiche and canapes.
Special breakfast and lunch tea sets are also on the menu. You get any main dish, choice of a side, and coffee tea or drink with the breakfast set. The lunch set features any salad, a sandwich or rice bowl, choice of a side, and coffee, tea or other drink. Be sure to check out the authentically Japanese Matcha Milk Tea (a centerpiece of tea ceremonies in Japan).
Royal/T’s maid cafe also serves certain types of alcohol. There plenty of specialty drinks on the menu like the decadent Deco (chocolate-infused port), as well as a host of wines by the glass and carafe, and sakes.
Average Dining Costs
The Art Gallery at Royal/T
The first thing you see when you enter Royal/T is its front gallery space. Art is scattered throughout the venue, including more gallery viewing space in the back. The bulk of the work comes from the collection of owner Susan Hancock. There are also exhibitions that rotate every six months.
There is a definite colorful, lighthearted poppy look and feel to the art displayed here but it is not regionally limited to Japan. Rotating exhibits have been known to feature local, national and international artists.
The space, for instance, hosted a group exhibit curated by Jay Sanders, the director of New York’s Greene Naftali Gallery. Another show was curated by New York artist/designer KAWS. The roster of artists has included Hideaki Kawashima, Richard Prince, Andre Ethier and Carol Dunham, among others.
Royal/T has also done a nice job of connecting the gallery to the boutique as well. During a KAWS show, for instance, the boutique sold exclusive limited edition KAWS t-shirts. Products available in the shop are often linked to Royal/T exhibits/artists.
Gift Shopping at Royal/T
Enjoy Chinese food or fond of sushi rolls? Put your money where your mouth is and purchase incredibly original, sometimes food-inspired accessories, as well as cute and odd gift items at Royal/T’s boutique. From wallets and bags to hats and toys, the shop has something quirky for just about any need. A host of artist-created consumer goods, design objects, toys, t-shirts, DVDs, jewelry, art publications and prints by artists (often featured in Royal/T shows) are on display and for sale.
Special Events at Royal/T
The space--which accommodates up to 300 guests-- can be rented out for private parties, business meetings, launches, film screenings and fashion shows. Royal/T has been known to host some fairly elaborate and popular Cosplay parties as well.
8910 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA
Tue.-Thu., 10 a.m.–9.p.m.
Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.–10.p.m.
Sun., 10 a.m.–6.p.m