Forbes : Most Unusual Restaurants In The World

Homaro Cantu, executive chef of Chicago’s Moto restaurant, isn’t afraid to try new things — and neither are his patrons. From maple squash cake to a lychee rigatoni fruit plate, Cantu’s concoctions are entirely inventive. Like many of his contemporaries–including Wylie Dufresne at New York’s WD-50 and Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in Bray, England–Cantu, a self-proclaimed gadgets geek who, in his spare time, reconstructs electrical equipment like combustible engines and remote-controlled cars, pays close attention to the science of cooking to create food that people have to “see to believe.” For example, one dish requires the use of liquid nitrogen to create an illusion of melting cheese out of grated mango. And many of Cantu’s courses are prepared with a Class IV Laser, which cooks the food at record speeds. Of course, Cantu’s main objective is still superior taste. But why all the hullabaloo for a few savory bites? Are diners more obsessed with presentation than palates these days? In Pictures: 10 Unusual Restaurants Around The World In a way, yes. Cantu says diners are bored with run-of-the-mill meals. And according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), he’s right. “There are not only a greater number of restaurants [than previously recorded,] but a greater diversification of the kind of restaurant cuisines as well as specialized concepts,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and information services. Next year, the NRA is forecasting restaurant industry sales to continue their upward trend and reach $537 billion dollars nationwide, up 5% from 2006. With increased competition, chefs are finding that “concept” dining is yet another way to spice things up (pun intended). At Brussels-based Dinner In The Sky, tables are suspended in midair by a crane. Forget the off-kilter entrees; Paris’ Dans Le Noir leaves its patrons literally in the dark. Run by a primarily blind and visual-impaired staff, founders Edouard de Broglie and Etienne Boisrond believe that the act of consuming food becomes more satisfying when you’re relying on any other sense than sight–now taste, smell and touch can have their moment in the spotlight. The concept was such a success that Broglie and Boisrond recently opened outposts in both London and Moscow. And chef Ferran Adrià Acosta, who runs El Bulli in Roses on the Costa Brava, Spain, is so dedicated to culinary perfection that the restaurant remains open only from April to September, leaving six months for Adrià to fine tune his 30-course tasting menu in his laboratory, “El Taller.” His strategy has paid off–this year, El Bulli was named the number one restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. Riehle says the methods of chefs like Adrià and more recently, Cantu, have been embraced because restaurant patrons, particularly in the U.S., are more educated about food and therefore less afraid to try new things. In other words, more adventurous palates allow for more adventurous dishes. “Basically, any good cook is part chemist, part artisan,” he remarks. “The knowledge base of both of those components is substantially higher now than any other point in time. It allows this specialization of knowledge not only to be executed but to be executed on a profitable basis.” Of course, sometimes high-concept dining misses the mark. At the now-defunct Cafe Ke’ilu in Tel Aviv, Israel, people paid $5 to “make believe” they were eating. It, understandably, fell short when diners tired of leaving hungry. As for Cantu, he plans to use his specialized knowledge for than just the Moto menu–expect to see many of his patent-pending products at a grocery near you in the future. “We are going to be launching products left and right that are going to hit your shelves,” he says. Our adventurous taste buds are ready and waiting. Source :