Novel Noshing: When Dining Rooms Upstage Menus

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When it comes to unique dining concepts, there’s the wacky and the wonderful. Here are a few trends that we applaud for guaranteeing diners a meal to remember.

Catch Your Own Dinner

Hook, line, sinker, savor. That’s the order of events at Zauo, The Fishing Boat Café chain of restaurants in Japan, where diners fish for their meal. Fukuoka City’s Tenjin branch is the largest, with 500 seats on two giant boats “anchored” side by side in the restaurant’s massive indoor pond. After casting your pole (there is one stationed by each seat) and making your catch, your fish or lobster is wisked away to the kitchen for proper cooking. 1-4-15 Nagahama, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Pref. 810-0072. Phone: 092-716-9988.

Dinner in the Sky (literally)

A true event for the stomach, Dinner in the Sky, a Belgium-based dining experience, involves sharing a meal with twenty of your friends (or enemies) while suspended 50 meters in the air. A crane supports the weight of the entire dining party, the table, and the dining staff who serve from the table’s center. The whole shebang costs just under €8,000 and allows for multiple seatings in an 8-hour period. Meant mostly for company parties and meetings, we think it would make a great destination “restaurant” for a family reunion. Thanks to JAGIRL for bringing this unbelievable concept to our attention on the forums’ thread that begs the question, “What happens if you drop your fork?” (more)

081606_hiltonmaldivesUNDERWATERff.jpgDeep Sea Dining

When deciding which fish to order at the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant (photo, right), it’s best to not gaze out at the sea life lingering just outside the restaurant’s glass panes. Nestled 5-meters underwater, the aquarium-style restaurant at the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa cost $5 million to build. Diners enjoy 270-degree views of the surrounding coral reef, home to rays, sharks, and many colorful fish. Reservations are essential as the tube-shaped dining room only seats 14.

Dark Dining

If love is blind, our infatuation with all things scrumptious should be as well. For a true blind date experience, head to one of Dans le Noir’s two branches in London or Paris to dine in pitch-blackness. The presentation need not be perfect — its the food’s flavor and texture that take center stage. Gourmands should call ahead to reserve a time for the Paris branch’s tasting menu — a surefire sensory overload. Blind servers deliver each course and act as guides.

roguechefsFF.jpgA Backstage Pass to the Kitchen

Thanks to the likes of chef superstars Emeril, Rachel, and Gordon, some top restaurants are opening their kitchen doors to foodies eager for a front-row seat. Foodies jump at the chance to eat at a table in the kitchen for a chance to see the process up close and personal. For instance, the hottest reservation in Half Moon Bay is a seat at the 30-foot long chef’s table in the kitchen of Rogue Chefs, the small California coastal town’s esteemed eatery. Executive Chef Kevin Koebler actively participates in the table talk of his captive audience.

Conveyor Belt Sushi

At kaiten-zushi restaurants, plates of freshly prepared sushi parade along the sushi bar aboard a rotating conveyor belt. At Seattle’s Blue C Sushi plates are color-coded and incorporate the colors of Tokyo’s metro. For example, chefs serve the $4 octopus sashimi on navy “Mita line” plates. Each plate is barcoded and scanned to ensure the removal of those not picked after a few rotations.

— Katie Hamlin