On Wednesday night I was one of a handful of people to attend a one-night-only pop-up restaurant hosted by Bob Blumer, an event which promoted his upcoming new series, ‘World’s Weirdest Restaurants‘. In his new series (premiering April 4, 2012 on The Food Network) viewers will be able to watch along as Bob dines in restaurants with rather strange and unique concepts in various countries across the globe.
The pop-up restaurant was set in the Tiki Bar (it was very dark, thus the poor photos) at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver’s Eastside, and event-goers were flashing their tickets and gleaming with excitement. I attended the early seating at six o’clock because the later seating was completely sold out by the time I learned about it. Once everyone was seated at their tables, Bob appeared and began showing us brief clips of himself on his escapades followed by a dinner course to emulate his experience.
The first of four courses began with Bob recalling his experience at Kayabukiya, an izakaya in Japan where the waiters are monkeys, and his take on their izakaya style chicken karaage. Before everyone wents paws first into their meal, we heard several loud monkey screeches. No, there weren’t any monkeys, it was just Bob appearing in a monkey suit serving everyone a glass of beer. Unfortunately, I have yet to acquire the taste for beer. However, the karaage was my favourite course of the entire event because it had a crisp shell and came with a dipping sauce, which was delicately flavoured with ginger and mirin.
Here’s a Youtube video about the monkeys at Kayabukiya from three years ago:
Something I wanted to try for a long time was incorporated into our second course: dining in the dark. Although we weren’t dining in the dark, we were provided with blindfolds to achieve the same effect. For some reason, being blindfolded in a public place always makes people feel apprehensive, even when they’re perfectly safe. The quiet murmur in the room suddenly graduated to loud chatter, as if people were talking louder to compensate for the lack of sight (strange that the outcome was opposite to what one might think). Plates were placed before us, and we were instructed to carefully feel around for a small bowl and two Chinese soup soups containing two different kinds of croquettes and a cold vegan soup. One of my croquettes actually had a piece of paper in it, which I’m pretty sure was unintentional, but did add another sensory element to my plate. Not being able to see what I was eating definitely made it very difficult to decipher the flavours.
Our third course, the one I had been expecting, was a tomato based stew topped with ling cod served from a toilet bowl. Upon tasting the dish, I didn’t detect any fecal aftertaste, so I am quite certain that the toilet bowl was new and fully sanitized before they used it for service.
Our last course was a take on the infamously addictive maple bacon doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnut. In my opinion, this joint doesn’t exactly classify as ‘weird’ as it does ‘creative’. But, there was a clip of Bob at the restaurant during a wedding ceremony, so I guess that’s a little strange. This is when we had to put on our clown noses. Not for any reason than to look silly and stupid–like the people in the video clip acted. The doughnuts were probably my least favourite course that night because the chef’s interpretation of a doughnut was a bit of a stretch. The texture didn’t resemble any doughnut I’ve ever had and the bacon flavour wasn’t very prominent. Completely different to the one from Voodoo.
The dishes that night certainly had its highs and lows, but aside from the food everyone was certainly entertained. When Bob was up at the plate to entertain, he certainly had a knack for charming the audience. I felt a little guilty when I asked to take a picture with him and interrupted his dinner (I didn’t realize he was eating when I tapped him on the shoulder). But, I guess someone of his status has to expect those kinds of annoyances, especially if he’s the one hosting an event. I’ve set my PVR to record Bob’s new series to find out if my face made it the small screen–and to find out about all those weird restaurants, of course…