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A morbid gastronomy in the Toilet Restaurants

Even feces can be turned into gold! This is the slightly perverse reasoning of the former Chinese banker Eric Wang. Why then not to create an entire menu inspired to the corporal needs and set it in an evocative enough restaurant? Reportage from Paola Cerana on this new trend

“In the era of creativity, even feces can be turned the gold!”. Eric Wang has tried to shown the world the credibility of his provocative statement.

Wang defines himself a “muckcracker” in pursuit of his dreams. Apparently, he has been able to turn his dreams into business, too. Inspired by a manga comic, Wang had the idea a few years ago to sell chocolate ice cream in cones similar to toilet bowls. He sold more than a thousand cones, or better bowls, in one day only, for 30 Taiwanese dollars each, much more than a normal ice cream. This electrified him to take the idea to the next stage. Why not a whole menu inspired to feces and an equally evocative restaurant?

This paved the way to the now extremely popular toilet-restaurants, that have been spreading among incredible success since 2004 in Taipei, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shenzhen, and all across Asia, and not only. The restaurant chain called “Modern Toilet Restaurant” indisputably expresses this provocative and irreverent spirit.

The atmosphere is cozy, and reproduces a big public restrooms. The customers sit on (closed!) toilet bowls, the tables are of transparent glass and are based on sinks; instead of napkins, toilet paper holders. Each dish is served in large plates in shape of mini waters, that are more comfortable than normal plates, since they almost rise up to the mouth, all painted with fancy floral or marine elements; finally, the drinks are served in mini sized plastic chamber pots with a straw, which are offered to customers after dinner as a memory of an unforgettable experience! All around, on floors and walls, tint tiles give the room a sense of joy, lightness and, why not, scent.

Obviously, the sape, colors, and presentation of food is consistent with this slightly “transgressive” atmosphere. It is easy to imagine a delicious chocolate dessert, on a smooth cream, with caramel sprinkle, slipping in its plate. A really gluttonous dessert, if not for the indecent name, and for the chamber pot.

If Wang’s goal was to shock and daze, he probably did it. But maybe so much success of such a grotesque thought was unexpected even by him. The most loyal customers of Toilter Restaurants are mostly young Asians, curious for something new and tired of old, rigid rituals. Youth who longs for fun, and for mockeries of the problems of life. Such excesses should not cause scandal, in the end. The modesty of Chinese have very different origins from ours: it reveals a frank indifference for the most intimate corporal functions and a tendency to share even private moments. Apparently, Westerners too are ever more curious of this way of sharing, at the point that the long lines outside the Toilet Restaurants see several tourists who book with days of advance, in order to finally find some free bowl! According to those who tried the experience, everything is supposedly flawless and tempting in the Toilet Restaurants: from service, to hygiene, to the quality of food and the originality of dishes, to the modest and really competitive prices.

If Easterners are masters of imitation and falsification, in this case they have definitely been original and innovative. This time, the Europeans lost their idea.
The first European version of the bathroom-restaurant was opened in Porto, Portugal, in 2007. The name is W’Duck, and it is located in the old Sapataria, in Avenida de Republica 245. The atmosphere is suggestive and refined, with great attention for all details, so that the gross intimacy is transformed into sensual elegance. Here toilet bowls are portrayed as futuristic thrones and the toilet paper sheets look like lacy tissues. Fusion music, low and winking lights, waitresses and maitre in provocative dresses and, probably, a hefty check at the end, instead of a plastic chamber pot as souvenir. Obviously, like in any de luxe restroom, you can find a cozy and scented hot tub where to take a bath after dinner, while sipping champagne and emptying the head - before than the body - from all the thoughts, possibly in company of loved ones.

I cannot but end this out of common reportage with a personal confidence and a joking recommendation. The confidence is that I personally do not feel attracted at all to this bizarre gastronomic atmosphere and I reaffirm my preference for small, isolated restaurants, for romantic dinners by candlelight and for the right companies, which are more than adequate to stimulate fantasies and tasty morsels. The recommendation, for those who, unlike me, feel attracted to this idea, and would like to try one of the restaurants of Wang the muckcracker, is to avoid asking directions for the restrooms as much as possible, because you would risk to hear in response: “Sir, you sit on the toilet bowl, you are in a restroom!”.

by Paola Cerana
01 march 2010, Food & Fun > Gastronomy