Samui Wining & Dining
Don’t be Silly!
A look at some of the stranger restaurants around the world.

A look at some of the stranger restaurants around the world.Today’s world seems to have shrunk. A couple of hundred years ago it took six months just to get a letter to America. But then, a bit later on, the appearance of the telegraph changed all that. And today, with jet travel and instant communication, everyone knows what’s happening the moment it happens. Scandals spread like wildfire. Wars are broadcast live. Social media fuels the moment. And so, when it comes to restaurants, that old Hollywood saying springs to mind – “There’s no such things as bad publicity”.

But, coming back to America, we have a great many things to both thank them for, and perhaps blame them for just a bit, too! After all, any country with 300 million people must generate an awful lot of competition. And so it came about that, in this country, the idea of the ‘theme’ first arose. Disneyland opened in 1955, bringing with it several in-house restaurants, each on a different Disney theme. This seemed to trigger a national reaction, as everyone spotted the new idea, and very soon restaurants with a theme started to pop up like pimples on a youth. And it didn’t take long for franchises to appear in Europe, with names like Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood spearheading the fun.

So put the two together – bad publicity and theme dining – and what have you got? Firstly you’ve got some really silly (and sometimes dreadful!) themes to chew on. And, second, some of these concepts are just so gross that their sheer vulgarity makes them competitive, as diners (all of them tourists!) trample over each other to get through the doors. The gentile ‘degustation’ of gourmet dining is elbowed out of the way in preference to ‘disgustation’!

Take your pick! It’s hard to sort out either the silliest or the tackiest. But, for some curious reason, Asia is big on all of this. So, pulling one out at random, how about a diner with nothing but penises on the menu? The Guo Li Zhuang restaurant in Beijing (and the name translates as ‘strength in the pot’) serves nothing but the most dubious of animal extremities – horse, snake, dog, donkey, deer, bull, ox – you name it; you can get to chew it. Which rather makes one wonder if hamsters, gerbils and mice appear as starters. And then there’s Taiwan’s Modern Toilet Restaurant chain. There’s a bit of a hint as to the theme in the chain’s slogan . . . “Go pee pee or go poo poo!”, although with a name like that it’s hardly needed. Diners get to sit on coloured ceramic toilets, dishes and plates are shaped like bedpans and urinals, tables are made of bathtubs, and even the lighting is made from adapted toiled fittings – but at least they serve food!

Moving across to Japan – a nation with more than a few interesting fetishes – you’ll kick yourself if you don’t visit Nyotaimori. Elsewhere, most people eat off plates. But not Japanese Emperors, who traditionally nibbled at their noodles from a woman’s naked body. Regrettably, you and I don’t qualify as royalty, and so we have to make do with a life-size body made of dough and marzipan. But at least we’ll get to play doctors and nurses, as we’ll need to ‘operate’ on it to get to the main course (it ‘bleeds’ sauce when you cut it) and aiming for where you’d expect the main organs to be will come up trumps. Oh – the name means ‘cannibal’ in Japanese, by the way . . .

And I could babble insanely about the psychiatric-themed ‘Alcatraz’ (also in Tokyo) or talk mechanically about the robot-themed ‘Robot Dinner Theatre’ in another part of the same city (“The Sexiest Fembots in Tokyo”). And, interestingly, closer to home there’s also the same theme at the ‘Hajime Restaurant’ in Bangkok. But enough is surely enough! Let’s head in the opposite direction for something thankfully different, and take a peek at the New Zealand scene.

And, in this age of conservation and organic food, what could be more appropriate than to leap with both feet firmly into the middle of the road – where you’ll quite possibly see the owner of the nearby pub with a shovel. The pub, in the tiny township of Pukekura (‘Puke’ for short) is officially called ‘Wild Food Restaurant’ (although locals call it ‘The Puke Pub’) . . . and the menu is composed entirely of roadkill. On it, you’ll find such rumbustious items as Bambi Burgers. Volvo Venison, Headlight Delight and Gag ’n’ Bag. Although, to be fair, they actually specialise in possum.

Actually, a decade or so ago, when this first hit the headlines, it was giggled at and thought to be just a bit gimmicky. But today the conservation thing has really taken hold–and taken seriously,too. Just Google ‘roadkill restaurants’ and see how many you get, mostly in Australia. It seems that the day-to-day restaurant scene in the USA is somewhat more conservative . . .

But I really have to say that it’s not all totally silly. When it comes to unusual eateries, these fall into two distinct camps. The first (and sillier) side we’ve looked at already. But there are some unique and lovely variations, too.

And so to finish it off – one more of each type from the Land of Smiles. Commanding stunning views of the whole of Bangkok (plus its rooftop dining, under the stars) is the award-winning restaurant on the 63rd floor of Lebua Hotel, ‘Sirocco’. And finally, condoms. ‘Cabbages and Condoms’. Although this is actually a very serious attempt to make a social contribution, as well as serving very good food. The walls are decorated with dozens of different sorts of condoms, waiters wear condom headgear, and you get a free condom with your bill. However, profits from the restaurant are used to support the Population and Community Development Association (PDA).

There are dozens more of these imaginative eateries, all over the world. But, fortunately, you’re on Samui. And there’s nothing silly about the range and quality of the restaurants here. They’re superb! Enjoy!

          

Rob De Wet


 


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