What are the marks of a good restaurant? Food? Cleanliness? Ambience? With so many restaurants now offering good food and great ambience, how does a restaurant distinguish itself from other worthy competitors?
Some restaurants decided to pull ahead of the competition by doing things the unconventional way – instead of usual waiters, they use tracks; instead of a nice, peaceful meal, they turn the whole restaurant into an earthquake zone; instead of eating your meal on the ground, you go up. And unsurprisingly – with people’s tastes becoming more and more adventurous and curious – these restaurants have made a name for themselves and their redefinition of restaurants.
Here are nine of the most unique (and undeniably coolest) restaurants worldwide.
1. Schwerelos & Zeitlos Restaurant, The Roller Coaster Restaurant, Germany
Address: Harburger Schlossstrasse 22, 21079 Hamburg, Germany, 15km south of Hamburg. Take the S3 subway line from Hamburg to Hamburg-Neugraben, and walk to the restaurant, about 700m away.
What type of cuisine: according to the restaurant, is based primarily on local, organic ingredients and cooked with minimal fat; wine, beer, non alcoholic drinks, meat, fish, vegetarian, salad, dessert and kids menu.
Price range: RM87-RM132.
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Thursdays from 4 pm – 11 pm, and Fridays to Sundays from 11:30 am – 11 pm. During holidays it opens daily from 11am to 11pm. Book online at www.rollercoaster-hamburg.de or call in at 040 – 89721310.
What makes it unique and cool: 12 large group tables instead of separate tables. Roller-coaster service; no wait staff but there are personnel to answer questions and explain. Guests key in their orders into a touch-screen computer using unique ID cards and the colour assigned to them. You set your own table using cutlery placed in a rolling table in the centre of, well, the large table. When the food is ready, it zips to the table along a twisting track from the kitchen above, in a metal container and lid. It comes in the colour of your seat (every seat has its own colour) and a small sticker specifying the table, seat and order. Despite mixed reviews, mostly on food quality, everyone agrees on the coolness of its gadgets and food delivery system as well as its child-friendly status. General recommendation is not to frequent the restaurant due to expensive prices.
2. Ninja New York, New York
Address: 25 Hudson St, Manhattan, NY 10013, United States. From World Trade Centre, walk 0.4 miles to Rector Street and take the number 1 bus for 1 stop towards Van Cortlandt Park -242 St, and then it’s a minute’s walk to the restaurant.
Cuisine: Japanese-fusion food. Signature dishes include Katana, a $50 dish featuring angus steak with teriyaki sauce, fried risotto and alaskan king crab served with tomato mango sauce topped with white sauce and melted cheese. There are also humungous tasting menus, which can cost as much as $100 per guest!
Price range: $31 – $50 (RM100 to RM180).
Opening hours: Strictly reservations only at 212 274-8500 or http://www.opentable.com/ninja-reservations-new-york?rid=5760&restref=5760. Dining hours are daily, starting from 5.45 pm to 11pm on Mondays to Thursdays, 5pm to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 5pm to 10pm on Sundays.
What makes it unique and cool: The interior of the restaurant is designed to look like a ninja village of feudal days, with mazes and contraptions set up throughout the restaurant to deceive the eye of intruders. Guests are led to the eatery through a “secret path” where “ninjas” hide in the shadows, and brought to a table in a dungeon-like chamber. Each of the menu items are cooked to order, often in front of each table. The ninja waiters perform magic tricks that extend into the meal, like sauces that catch on fire. Another child-friendly restaurant, reviews have mentioned that the entire experience largely depends on the waiter’s infatuation with ninjas. The pricing is more expensive due to presentation and entertainment aspects.
3. Carton King, Taichung city, Taiwan
Address: 2 Second Alley, Tungshan Road, Beitun district, Taichung 406, Taiwan. Take a taxi or buses 1, 15, 20 or 21 from Taichung Railway Station.
Cuisine: Signature dish is the Boston Herb-roasted Spring Chicken (NT$360). There are set meals with a mini steamboat or rice, vegetables, soup and fruit vinegar. Honey ice cream at the honey museum is highly recommended.
Price range: About RM15 for kid meals and RM25-RM40 for adult meals. An entry fee of NT$200 (roughly RM20) is charged, but it includes a NT$100 discount coupon for souvenirs and a NT$100 discount coupon for food.
Opening hours: 11am to 2pm, and 5pm to 8.30pm daily. The Carton King Creativity Park, however, is open from 10am to 9pm daily.
What makes it unique and cool: There are several franchises, but tourists recommend the main outlet at Dakeng. The Carton King Creativity Park is a cardboard kingdom consisting of a garden, a honey museum, a bar and a restaurant. All chairs, plates, walls and tables are made from cardboard. The main outlet also has cardboard world artefacts, animals and souvenirs. The food is pretty average, but tourists recommend it for the unique experience. If a customer happens to break a chair, a waiter takes away the chair and recycles it. Their website has more details on the different parts of the park (in Chinese though). Also a child-friendly eatery.
4. Witches in Britches, Melbourne, Australia
Address: 84 Dudley St, Melbourne, Victoria 3003, Australia. From Queen Victoria Market, walk down Peel Street and turn right off the corner into Dudley Street. The restaurant is near the junction of King Street and Dudley Street. http://ptv.vic.gov.au/ can help you with directions.
Cuisine: Australian. The restaurant serves three-course meals starting with signature entrée “Witch’s Curse” – a pumpkin soup with fresh herbs –, dessert plus a selection of main courses including vegetarian options. Please inform the restaurant of special dietary requirements ahead of time at (03) 9329 9850 or email@example.com.
Price range: RM61 – RM222.
Opening hours: 10am to 1am from Mondays to Saturdays, and 11am to 4pm, 6.30pm to 12am on Sundays.
What makes it unique and cool: Tucked in a spooky, medieval castle, Witches in Britches offers an entertaining interactive show and dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Specially designed cakes can be ordered in advance. There’s a bar area for loads of music and dance into the night. Look out for creepy characters roaming around the restaurant. Reviews have shown an improvement in customer service, and while reviews on food are mixed, it is generally recommended by locals and tourists alike. It is child-friendly and great for parties and special occasions.
5. Dinner in the Sky, Belgium (or any of its 40 franchises)
Address: It has its roots in Belgium, but now it can be held anywhere as long as it’s at least 500m2 large and has authorisation from the owner of the land. It can be found in more than forty countries including France, USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India! The fixed location for the month of June in Brussels is currently at the Arcades du Cinquantenaire, Brussels.
Cuisine: Unique 5-course menus prepared by seven world-renowned chefs for either lunch or dinner. A past example was a scrumptious sea grill feast by Yves Mattagne which can be viewed here.
Price range: They charge a high price for the experience – 250 euros (over RM1000!) per person.
Opening hours: Daily. The seven chefs take turns preparing the meals each day.
What makes it unique and cool: If you’re not too afraid of heights, Dinner in the Sky is an experience you’d want to give a shot. Seating 22 people at a time, the “dining area” is raised to a height of 50 metres and the entire session can range from 30 minutes to 8 hours, based on clients’ preferences. A separate platform can be raised to the same height by a second crane for entertainment or presentations. The platform is made of clear glass and can be rotated in one-hour increments to allow guests to enjoy the panoramic views. Book here and customise your dinner plans. You can even hold a marriage in the sky! You can find more details here.
6. Dining in the Dark, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Address: 50A Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Cuisine: The restaurant offers three menus of four-course meals, namely the Classic Manu, Vegetarian Menu and Wine-Pairing Menu. All menus are essentially, a surprise to the senses, as you cannot see what you are served. The KL version of the restaurant is halal.
Price range: RM118++ per pax for the Classic and Vegetarian Menu, and RM168++ for the Wine-Pairing Menu.
Opening hours: 6pm to 9.30pm daily except Mondays. Make reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in at +603 2110 0431.
What makes it unique and cool: Fine dining in the dark first started in Zurich and has since spread all over Europe and the world, including Kuala Lumpur. The idea is to give your eyes a break and to rely on your other senses to enjoy food. Guests are guided by blind or visually impaired staff to the dining area, where a complimentary aperitif and pre-dinner games are held to begin the sightless experience. The staff will also guide guests during the meal, telling guests where to start. Food on the plate is usually cut into pieces and arranged like a clock, and the general rule is to sample the food in an anti-clockwise manner. The restaurant seats 50 people at a time. Additional requests can be made during reservation.
7. IceBar, Lainio Snow Village, Finland
Address: Lainiotie, 95980 Kittilä, Finland. http://www.snowvillage.fi/contact.htm offers great advice on how to get to the place from different locations.
Cuisine: Lappish delicacies such as elk meat pasta, lamb caree and Lappish potato soup.
Price range: About RM32 to RM130.
Opening hours: 5pm to 8.30pm daily. Reservations are not necessary but if the place happens to be full you may need to wait for a table to open up. Book here or call +358 (0)40 416 7227.
What makes it unique and cool: Set within the Lainio Snow Village, the IceBar is a restaurant wholly constructed out of ice and snow. Temperatures are kept at -2 and -5 Celsius degrees, so it’s a given to wear proper winter clothing when dining at the restaurant. The restaurant mainly serves cold meals, as it’s near impossible to keep the food warm. The design of the restaurant changes each year, as does its menu, and the entire Lainio Snow Village – this is because the Snow Village is built from ground up every year. The Snow Village opens on the 10th of December 2014 and last overnight reservations will be taken for 6th of April 2015, after which the Snow Village remains open until it melts. Entrance fees to the village are 10 € per adult and 5€ per child (4 – 12 years). Guided tours are available for 47€ per group, not exceeding 40 people. The IceBar can cater for large-scale private parties as well.
8. The Picture House, Bird’s Eye group, England
Address: Currently in Manchester’s Pioneer Suite on 3, Canal Street, Manchester M1 3HE, just two streets away from Manchester Central Coach Station.
Cuisine: A two-course meal which features either Chicken Inspirations or Fish Chargrills – both products of Birds Eye Frozen Foods – as its main course.
Price range: Free!
Opening hours (or days): Latest restaurant opened for a day on 26th June 2014.
What makes it unique and cool: The Picture House is the world’s first pay-by-photo restaurant – you order, take a photo of the food, share it on Instagram and eat for free! Operated by frozen food giant Birds Eye – who came up with the idea after conducting a survey on people’s obsession with photographing food and sharing the pictures online – they’ve found a creative way of advertising their new dining range. The first pop-up restaurant opened in Soho, London for three days in May, and is now moving to other UK cities, including Manchester and Leeds. Brewery Wharf’s Oracle Bar hosted one night of free dining in Leeds just last Tuesday. Specific hashtags are used with the photographs, and in case you’re worried about getting a blur photo, there’s a photographer present to give tips! Check out http://picturehouse.birdseye.co.uk/ for updates on future restaurants, and reservations can be made here.
9. Disaster Café, Spain
Address: Calle Francesc Layret, 9 ( Fenals ) 17310 Lloret de Mar, Gerona, Spain.
Cuisine and price range: This one was incredibly tricky. The restaurant’s website is currently under construction, and websites covering the restaurant have not mentioned a peep about what type of food is served or how much it costs. They do praise the taste of the food, despite its weight being heavier than usual cuisine.
Opening hours: 06:00 PM to 12:00 AM daily. Call +34 972 36 00 25 for bookings.
What makes it unique and cool: Normally, people are terrified of earthquakes, but at the Disaster Café, people actually pay to experience a simulated 7.8 quake while they enjoy a tasty meal. You’re first led into an elevator down to the basement, and then you’re greeted by wait staff dressed in construction suits and helmets. Sample the heavier-than-normal food and dishes in the cave-like interior. When the quake happens, lights go on and off, things move around – let’s just say spilt food and crying children are common post-quake occurrences. Best to keep your favourite outfits away from this restaurant. Kids can have fun at the spaceship and alien-themed ground floor restaurant above. Reservations are a must as the place is so popular it’s usually fully booked. On weekends visitors are treated to themed shows aliens and performances.
Eating is guaranteed to be a memorable affair at these unique restaurants! Bon appétit!
Feature photo, Dinner in the Sky – http://www.dinnerinthesky.be/bru/en/
Schwerelos & Zeitlos – http://www.gastroshot.de/hamburg/harburg/schwerelos-&-zeitlos
Waiters in Witches and Britches – https://sslcam.news.com.au/cam/authorise?channel=pc&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.heraldsun.com.au%2fentertainment%2farts%2fslightly-spellbound%2fstory-fn7euh6j-1226432586104%3fnk%3dad9cd682cba962aaa0b5cf7501a90e97
Getting into Dining in the Dark – http://www.internationaltravellermag.com/kuala-lumpur-diners-happily-left-in-the-dark/
IceBar Lainio Snow Village – http://freestylerapid.blogspot.com/2012/07/strange-resturant-locations.html
The Picture House – http://www.abouttimemagazine.co.uk/discover/time-birdseye-pop/
Staff at Disaster Café – http://hereilike.com/siam/hereilike/detail.aspx?cmsId=413&&cate=2&&posi=2