cute food

The cuteness is real, y’all. (Photo; Getty Images)

Eat + Drink

Food to Make You Smile: Where to Eat #Cutefood Around the World

Cute food (or for the hashtag obsessed, #cutefood) is quickly becoming one of Asia’s biggest cultural exports. The foodie trend, where millennials hunt out food in the shape of adorable animals or incongruous objects and share them on Instagram, has its roots in the anime craze.

Anime, which originated in Japan in the 1960s, is a cartoon style characterized by bright colors and stylized facial characteristics, such as big eyes and vibrant hair styles, and has quickly spread across Asia. With the rapidly expanding use of social media, particularly Instagram, restaurants, cafés and coffee shops around the world are doing all they can to attract customers through Instagram posts.

Competition to design the most memorable cute food is fierce. The art form is as much about delighting the eyes as the taste buds, but it is more than just smiling pandas and cat-shaped cookies. Here are some of our favorite cute food restaurants.

Silks Palace, Taipei

cute food
(Photo: Courtesy of Silks Palace)

A luxury restaurant in Taipei’s National Palace Museum compound, Silks Palace has re-created some of the museum’s most popular artifacts in cute food form. The museum has given pride of place to priceless jade items that have been carved to resemble food that was prized in ancient China, like cabbage covered in insects, a slab of Dongpo meat, duck and pumpkin. Silks Palace restaurant makes these items using real food that can be sampled by diners.

Served in a curio box, a cute yellow split-pea duck sits on the top layer, a pumpkin on the next layer, two radishes and a jadeite cabbage on the next, and transparent jelly slabs of red bean and glutinous rice stylized as “meat” sit on the lowest layer.

The restaurant also serves an expertly carved Mao-Kung Ting (ritual bronze vessel) block of ice topped with fresh fruit, a jadeite cabbage of bok choy in chicken broth, and pig knuckles designed to re-create the priceless jade meat in the museum.

East Ocean Teochew Restaurant, Singapore

Singapore’s East Ocean Teochew Restaurant is a dim sum restaurant with a difference: The food has been designed to be cute. Think pastries baked in the shapes of fish, complete with charred tails; dumplings shaped like penguins; snail-shaped dim sum; cat dumplings with ears and whiskers; multilayered, dog-shaped dumplings; and even bear-shaped dim sum.

The “Q Dim Sum” menu at the East Ocean Teochew Restaurant is a regular feature on the Instagram feeds of young Singaporeans. The menu changes frequently, so you never quite know which cute food character you might get to photograph … and eat!

cute food
(Photo; Getty Images)

Ojipan Café, Tokyo

The Ojipan Café, a panda-themed café in Harajuku, Tokyo, is a typical Japanese destination that allows travelers to experience cute food where it all began. Everything here is designed with pandas in mind, from huge panda toys sitting at the end of the tables to panda-style lampshades and panda stickers on the walls and windows.

What makes Ojipan Café one of the most popular Instagram spots in the Japanese capital is its panda-themed food. Everything served here is cute. Lattes are topped with chocolate sprinkles in the shape of a panda, omelets are topped with an orange face and black eyes, rice is molded into panda-face shapes, and scoops of ice cream are topped with Oreo cookies for panda ears and chocolate sauce for features.

Yawahada Coffee Shop, Tokyo

cute food
(Photo: Getty Images)

It is hard to stand out in Tokyo with cute food alone, but what makes this cat-themed coffee shop so special is its absolute dedication to the theme.

The most Instagrammed food sold in the shop is a signature white-chocolate and vanilla marshmallow cat that sits inside a cup of hot coffee or chocolate, gradually expanding as it absorbs the liquid and getting fatter until it dissolves.

Cat lovers in Japan are frequent visitors to Yawahada, but so are lovers of all things cute food. Paw shaped marshmallows can be bought in variety boxes, green tea paw prints, chocolate paws, vanilla paws and strawberry marshmallow paws. Plus, there’s no shortage of Instagram-friendly cat marshmallow products in Yawahada coffee shop.

Moomin Cafe, Helsinki

The name of the Moomin Café perhaps offers an insight into the ethos behind the food served here, which is inspired by the Swedish-Finnish hippo-like cartoon characters from the books of the same name.

Located in the Helsinki district of Fabianinkatu, the Finnish capital and home of the Moomins, the café is popular with locals and tourists alike looking to fill their Instagram feeds with photos of cute characters too good to eat.

Servers bring Moomin toys to each table along with plates of cute food. Slices of white Moomin cheesecake (made cute food with chocolate chip eyes and slightly raised noses), Moomin house-shaped pancake stacks topped with snowy cream, and Moomin-shaped chocolate sprinkles on top of lattes are favorites here.