Courtesy of Subculture Dining
SubCulture Dining, San Francisco
The Weird Factor: If you’re at the epicenter of San Francisco’s culinary circle, odds are you’ve heard whisperings of Subculture Dining, one of the city’s hottest “underground restaurants.” Part Da Vinci Code, part Food Network, this is a kind of foodie secret society in which chefs with more talent and daring than funding cook spontaneous feasts for food obsessed city dwellers in a variety of unofficial—and donated—venues (someone’s home, an Airstream trailer). The most famous of these culinary mavericks is Russell Jackson, whose underground operation SubCulture Dining helped him raise enough money to head above ground. By the year’s end Jackson hopes to open the restaurant Lafitte, at Pier 5 in San Francisco.
Signature Dish: The menu’s constantly evolving; a favorite dish was slow-cooked local albacore with early girl tomato relish and aged white Cava vinegar.
Courtesy of The Clinic
The Clinic, Singapore
The Weird Factor: Singapore now has its own molecular gastronomy restaurant to join the ranks of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck and Chef Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, where food takes the form of weird science experiments: foams, liquid nitrogen, even an ultrasonic mixing technique used to create unique emulsions. Only The Clinic has gone a considerably bizarre step further. Simulating a hospital, chefs “operate” on gourmet oddities in an open demo kitchen under the glow of operating room lights. The entire 13-course menu is served on stainless steel surgical tables to diners seated in gleaming gold-plated wheelchairs.
Signature Dish: Dashi soup with olive oil soba noodles (the self-forming noodles are made by squirting an olive oil concoction from a syringe into a bowl of hot liquid).
Info: Blk 3C, The Cannery, Clarke Quay, #01–03, Singapore, www.theclinic.sg
Courtesy of Dans le Noir?
Dans le Noir?, London, New York, Paris, other locations
The Weird Factor: The ultimate sensory dining experience, Dans Le Noir? London is the latest in a series of restaurants that offers the chance to dine blind. Capitalizing on the raging trend of dark restaurants, the idea is to heighten awareness about blindness, as well as one’s sense of taste. You can check out your dining companions over cocktails in the lit bar and lounge before entering the “dark room,” which seats 60 people. Surprise menus come in four colors and themes: white for normal, red for no seafood, blue for no meat, and green for vegetarian. Then it’s lights out as you move over to the dark side for a surprise feast. Additional dark dining venues span the globe, including New York’s CamaJe Bistro, O’Noir in Montreal, Canada (which features blind waiters), Blindekuh (blind Cow) in Zürich, Unsicht-Bar in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and two additional Dans le Noir?locations in Paris and Moscow.
Signature Dish: If we told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Courtesy of ’s Baggers
’s Baggers, Nuremberg, Germany
The Weird Factor: Ever wish you could do away with surly waiters? One restaurant owner, Michael Mack, found the solution. On the outskirts of Nuremberg in Bavaria, Mack opened ’s Baggers, the world’s first automated restaurant. Humans still cook the food, but now chefs can focus on what they do best. Customers use touch screens to choose from a menu of typical Franconian dishes—slaughterhouse platter, sausages, and roasts. They can even write e-mail or SMS until their food arrives via a spiraling gravity-fed conveyer belt. Mack has patented his new rail system, so don’t be surprised if you start to see fewer waiters and more machines.
Signature Dish: Fränkische Kanneloni, covered pancakes stuffed with mincemeat and kraut.
Info: Am Steinacher Kreuz 28 D-90427 Nuremberg, www.sbaggers.de
Dinner in the Sky, worldwide
The Weird Factor: Elevating foodies to new heights over cities like Paris, Brussels, and Dubai, Dinner in the Sky offers 22 seat-belted guests a chance to dine at a seven-ton table attached to a crane, hovering 165 feet in the air. The only requirements: each guest must reach a minimum height of five feet, a space needs to be secured (options range from race tracks to vineyards), and someone must possess extremely deep pockets (average cost for the whole shebang runs approximately $30,000 for eight hours). It takes approximately two hours to set up, one hour to break down, and you might want to hit the restroom before you rise—it only takes a minute to lower, but when one person goes, the whole table descends along with you.
Signature Dish: All meals are privately catered.
Courtesy of Knoizki
Modern Toilet Restaurant, Taipei
The Weird Factor: Most Westerners will flinch at the unlikely association made at this bizarre Taiwanese eatery, but in Asia, toilet dining is bordering on an obsessively popular way to eat. Owned by 27-year-old Eric Wang, commode cuisine comes to life as customers sit on (closed, thankfully) toilets while feasting on a steaming pink toilet bowl of noodles or a bidet of soft-serve chocolate ice cream. The first location was such a success that Wang opened a second branch seven months later—and now it’s a chain. The bathroom décor includes converted glass-covered bathtubs as tables, wall-mounted neon faucets, and urinal lamps. Even more unexpected may be the price: about $10 for a full meal, including soup and dessert. If you plan on staying in town a while, sign up for the frequent-flusher program to secure your own toilet-shaped bowl.
Signature Dish: Curry hot pot.
Info: No.34, Lincyuan St., Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan; www.moderntoilet.com.tw.
Courtesy of The Supperclub
The Supperclub, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Singapore
The Weird Factor: Get in touch with your inner Roman. The brainchild of a group of Dutch artists who wanted to merge cutting-edge cuisine, design, and performance, The Supperclub serves diners a four-course gourmet tasting menu—in bed... Start with cocktails, and when it’s time to eat—always at 8 p.m.—Diva Dan, who sparkles in a sequin dress, gold shoes and a blond Periwig, leads guests to bed. Mattress-tables line the periphery of both floors in this two-story former warehouse and look onto an open kitchen. While you dine on wild mushroom tartlette with huckleberry compote, local artists perform and massage therapists offer rubdowns.
Signature Dish: Slow-poached halibut with Dungeness ravioli and ginger beurre blanc.
Courtesy of Marco Ramerini/ www.borghiditoscana.net
Fortezza Medicea, Volterra, Italy
The Weird Factor: This may be one of the world’s most difficult reservations to secure. After all, not even New York’s Masa requires a thorough background check and the OK from Italy’s Department of Justice. That’s because, in addition to serving fluffy gnocchi and robust Chiantis, most chefs, waiters, and sommeliers are also serving 25 to life. Launched in 2006 in a 500-year-old prison outside Pisa, Fortezza Medicea is a kind of social experiment: can a restaurant staffed by some of Italy’s most hardened criminals provide viable job training? Guests find out by shuffling into a massive room filled with plain benches, where guards (not maitre d’s) survey the crowd. Metal detectors, turning in cell phones, and plastic cutlery are all good ideas. Sending your food back? Not so much.
Signature Dish: Gnocchi with fava bean purée.
The Weird Factor: Created by Daniel and Emmanuel Dayan, Pomze is a gourmet Parisian restaurant devoted to a singular fruit: apples. The restaurant is so obsessed, in fact, that it uses more than 120 varieties and adds the flavor to all its menu items. You can feast on the likes of gazpacho with granny smith–juice ice cubes in the converted Haussmann-style apartment or, for something more casual, head downstairs to the stone cider cellar, full of old cider bottles. Some elixir highlights: sweet draught cider from Northern Brittany and Nayade, a blend of pure granny smith apple juice and Polish vodka. And don’t miss the gourmet shop, with enough apple-based products—from calvados to chutney—to keep the doctor comfortably at bay for a decade.
Signature Dish: Caramelized pork ribs with three-apple salad.
Info: 109, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris; www.pomze.com