Cafe Japone offers karaoke bliss

Originally Published 10/02/00

Sept. 28, 2000
Caf? Japone
10:14 p.m.

In my ideal world, life would be a musical. Bursting into song would be a daily occurrence. We would sing about love, friends, homework, papers, highlighters and statistics. You name it, we would sing it. Can you imagine it?

What fun J Street would be at twelve o’clock on a Tuesday with everyone belting out songs about Chic-Fil-A.

Unfortunately, most people I have met do not seem to see the same perfection in such a world as I do. Therefore, because of societal pressures and customary etiquette, I am forced to suppress my Sound of Music urges. This was true until eight of my best girl friends and I set out to tackle karaoke at Caf? Japone in Dupont Circle.

The small Japanese restaurant is nestled between bars and bookstores on 2032 P Street, NW. As we entered most of us were a little nervous in anticipation of our musical debuts, but we were surprised to find an extremely intimate atmosphere inside. Each cobalt-black table was adorned by only one tea light, which provided a genuine Asian ambiance. The dark walls were covered with pictures of the famous and the not-so-famous who had performed at the sushi bar before. I can now claim that I performed in the same room as Elizabeth Taylor, Clint Eastwood and Elizabeth Shue. Not bad for a girl who can barely carry a tune.

As we sat down at our table, a grandfather-aged man began his rendition of Que Ser?, Ser? and the entire restaurant joined him. I knew I had found my niche – this is the musical world for which I had been waiting.

At Caf? Japone they give us three menus – one for Japanese entrees, one for sushi and one for songs. Naturally, I grabbed the song menu first. It was any music lover’s dream. Choices ranged from Frank Sinatra’s My Way to Christina Aguilera’s What a Girl Wants and just about every song in between.

I made my selections. My first number would be My Girl, followed by Aint No Mountain High Enough and the grand finale, I Will Survive.

To keep its appeal as a restaurant, Caf? Japone requires a minimum order of $10 a person. This prevents eager singers from using the place simply for its karaoke, our waitress informed us. So while we were waiting for our songs to be called, my friends and I ordered a sampling of what the restaurant had to offer. I was in adventurous mood. Already trying something new, I figured why stop at singing and ordered my first sushi dish – California rolls. After a quick chopsticks lesson, I was ready to go. I thought they were spectacular until I was informed that caviar was sprinkled on top of them and suddenly my appetite changed. But I did enjoy the Green Tea Ice Cream – no fish eggs were mixed in with it.

Finally after about an hour of singing along to the vocal stylings of slightly-inebriated young professionals, our songs were called. It was thrilling. The entire restaurant joined in during the chorus. The adrenaline was pumping and I even got up the nerve to dance around a bit. All the pressure from years of suppressing the songs was released.

The restaurant’s crowd changed as the night progressed. By midnight the thirty-somethings were heading out and familiar GW faces were streaming in. So, for the weak of heart who are not brave enough to perform before their peers, I recommend going closer to 9:30 p.m., when karaoke begins. No matter what time you go you will have quite the experience with adventures in singing and Japanese food.

Even after we left Caf? Japone, the singing continued out in the streets of Dupont Circle. To quote one of my favorite musicals, for one brief shining moment the world was how I always dreamed it to be. Karaoke is my Camelot.

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