Pushing the Limits
Many of us have experienced the ease of fast food, the pleasure of fine dining and numerous culinary categories in between. But like many things, food can sometimes get boring both in flavor profile and presentation. No doubt in an effort to shake things up and push the limits of what a restaurant can be, there are a few restraunteurs who have stepped outside of the box to bring customers a truly unique dining experience.
If you think Emeril Lagasse makes a bold statement with food, you ain’t seen nothin’!
Mortar Burgers, Terrorist Treats
Imagine dining in a room decorated with Kalashnikov machine guns, Dragunov sniper rifles and filled with the sounds of helicopter propellers and gunfire, and you would know what it’s like to eat at Buns & Guns in Beirut, Lebanon.
Designed to look like a military outpost, the restaurant is located in a southern suburb of the city ripe with civil strife. Yussef Ibrahim, the owner, says that the restaurant’s theme reflects what is going on in the city. Although some patrons have found the establishment distasteful and disturbing, many more are amused and are quite fond of the food. Favorites like Mortar Burgers (hamburgers), Rocket Propelled Grenades (chicken skewers) and Terrorist Toast (wheat bread) can be found on the extensive menu. According to Ibrahim, if his countrymen can be accused of terrorism, why not have terrorist bread?
Buns & Guns is located in an area that is strongly supported by Hezbollah, an Islamist political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon. Things can be quite serious and heavy in this area and the restaurant was born out of a desire to lighten the mood and make people smile and laugh. Though it’s a highly unconventional way to attract customers, there are many that really get what the place is going for. If Ibrahim’s theme isn’t already well developed enough, consider that upon entry into the restaurant, the slogan “Sandwiches Can Kill You” is prominently displayed.
What it actually means is that the portions he serves are so big and generous you could overeat to death.
Looking for Luck
If you need a little luck in your life, it may serve you well to pay a visit to the always-busy New Lucky Restaurant in Ahmadabad, India. After all, what could be luckier than dining among the dead?
Built over a cemetery that has been around for centuries, covered graves resembling coffins rise up through the floor next to the tables where patrons sit. They are green and decorated in fresh flowers on a daily basis. So while you’re eating spicy chana masala and soft naan breads, you can wonder about who might be buried next to you. The restaurant’s manager, Krishan Nair, says that the graveyard is good luck and the allure of it brings in many customers. In a culture where death and birth are often thought of as a fluid cycle, the idea of dining among dead bodies is not disturbing like it may be in other cultures.
If cemetery food isn’t your thing, perhaps prison food is. At the high-security penitentiary known as Fortezza Medicea in Volterra, Italy, you can dine in a restaurant fully staffed by inmates. The restaurant itself is in the old prison chapel, surrounded by impenetrable walls, guard towers, and a high tech camera security system. Inside, a cadre of felons working as chefs, waiters, and busboys ensure that you are provided with the finest dishes including veal scaloppini and eggplant parmesan. You even get the privilege of being serenaded by pianist Bruno, an inmate doing life for murder.
It has been said of the prisoners of Fortezza Medicea that they will make you dishes you will not be able to refuse. Don Corleone would be proud.
Flushable Foods, Feudal Feasts
If you’re into crude, humorously disgusting, and exaggerated dining experiences, look no further than Matong Theme Restaurant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Here the theme is bathroom décor, from the bathtub tables and lamp urinals to the shower curtain wall hangings and toilet bowl seats. Plates and bowls that patrons eat of off are designed to resemble miniature Japanese squat toilets and Western-style toilets. The restaurant’s name, Matong, actually means toilet in Chinese. The place is a hit with customers and most people come with an open mind. Many think that the more disgusting the experience, the more fun. One of the most popular dishes is the Shabu Shabu, a soup with meats in a white cream base. Don’t worry, if you need to make a pit stop while you are there, the restaurant has real bathrooms and they are highly discernable from the bowls out of which you eat.
If you’re looking for a highly unique, but less gross experience, consider paying a visit to Ninja New York in Manhattan. This $3.5 million dollar concept restaurant is designed to look like a ninja castle during feudal era Japan. The ninja concept is explored in detail, with Ninja Art Dishes presented on weathered scrolls and ninja waiters who demonstrate their abilities with throwing stars, swords and theatrical style explosions. Many have likened dining in this restaurant to visiting a theme park. People especially like the fact that ninjas hide out throughout the restaurant and jump out at you when you least expect it.
One thing is for sure, Ninja New York is definitely a safer dining experience than eating prison food in Italy.
The opportunity to visit exotic destinations can open up new culinary worlds. Tusker Trail’s own Eddie Frank knows this well. Back in Tusker’s early days when Eddie was leading trans-Africa expeditions, it wasn’t uncommon for him to be hundreds of miles from a conventional meal. He would frequently have to chow on poached bush meat such as python, monkey, elephant jerky, buffalo liver, and other exotic foods. “Nowadays” he says, “I just prefer a good burger.” Beef, that is.
Adventurous eating goes hand-in-hand with adventurous travel. Nowadays on a Tusker Trek you’ll dine in class on amazing Tusker grub. And this is the place to start.