Visiting weird and unique restaurants during my travels is one of my favourite things ever. Yes, regardless if I end up there intentionally or by chance. Something that seems to be completely appropriate and normal in one culture can be a pure WTF for the rest of us.
But isn’t a beauty of travelling? You get to experience something you never knew existed, something so odd that you wonder if it is all real. Lucky me had opportunities to dine in some ridiculous places, which blew my mind. Keep on reading if you want to go on a journey re-visiting 5 weird restaurants around the world. Prior warning, it’s 18+ content. If you are easily triggered by BDSM, poop or loneliness, leave this blog post and go read something light.
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#1: When unusual restaurant and BDSM come together
Choosing the most unusual restaurants I have ever been to was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. The names, interior, food and overall impressions I had of those places just popped in my mind immediately. My personal #1 is a Japanese restaurant Kenka in New York.
We were walking around the neighbourhood when we spotted a queue outside the restaurants’ doors. At that time we had no idea what to expect, we were just hungry and decided if there is a queue, it must be an alright place *Asian in me is cheering*. We put our names in the waiting list and about half an hour later the host invited us inside. Well, one of the lessons I learnt travelling is to keep an open mind. Oh, and welcome every experience/person/challenge with open arms.
So what’s up with Kenka in New York? We sat down, ordered food, sake and started sharing what happened in our lives. I was with Emil, a friend from AIESEC and it’d been 6 years since we last saw each other. It took us about 40 minutes before we even noticed where we were. I was slowly eating my katsu when I looked around and saw some graphic images next to the bar.
Hmmm, interesting, some adult photos as part of the interior? Well, I was slightly surprised but still not fazed. Later I went to the washroom and saw a full-on BDSM room built-in further in the dining area. I’m talking about this lovely thing here:
That really cracked me up and shocked me. I understand that we all come from different backgrounds and cultural upbringing, so slurping noodles next to this room could be slightly disturbing. However, I have a high tolerance for such things. So I was just laughing that we ended up in a truly unique dining venue. After all, it was a pure accident that we chose Kenka as we had no idea what the place was about!
Moral of the story: when it comes to kinkiness, Japan always leads the race 😉 If you are looking for a semi-porn and BDSM-filled dining experience, go to Kenka. Don’t worry, nothing bizarre happens there. It is a truly unique restaurant and inexpensive izakaya located in East Village, New York. It also has a store on the second floor if you are keen on shopping for some adult stuff after eating there.
#2: Eating poop in Modern Toilet in Taiwan
Sorry if I shocked you, but it’s exactly what you can expect from another odd restaurant. Welcome to Taiwan! When my relatives were visiting me in Taipei, they suggested we check out the famous toilet-themed cafe. You probably can see now why I was not easily fazed by porn-restaurant. A few years prior to that I already had my cultural shock in Modern Toilet in Taiwan. Here’s the proof:
It’s one of the few original restaurants, which can’t be open everywhere. Society must be tolerant, open-minded and fun to let such business exist. I can’t even imagine having such a place in Kyrgyzstan as our rage-filled bumpkins would destroy it.
Anyway, a few interesting facts about Modern Toilet cafe:
- You will seat in real toilets, but they are clean, don’t worry!
- Drinks are served in mini urinals,
- Tables have fake poo in toilet bowls,
- It’s a restaurant/cafe/dessert place, and everything on the menu will be presented to you in toilet-related facilities. And ice-cream poo is one of the hits!
Modern Toilet, Taipei is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. The cafe is not expensive, provides an authentic atmosphere, it is surprisingly clean and kid-friendly! Feel free to check out this particular unique restaurant when you travel to Taiwan for light-hearted fun.
#3: Khao San road is so 2018, visit the Condoms Kingdom instead
Yes, sis/bro/non-binary gender pal, we aren’t done with 18+ content! Unique restaurant concepts include not just poop and kinky stuff. It also can educate people on important topics… such as how to protect yourself from STIs. Besides regular STI screening (here I am promoting sexual health and awareness, am I really a travel blogger or what?), individuals must use and take advantage of 10392834749 different condoms available out there. If you are thinking: “Bernara, wtf, you are lying, there aren’t so many various condoms!”, wait a moment. I KNOW what I am talking about. Welcome to the next restaurant found a couple of years ago in Bangkok. Yes, I visited it too with 2 other friends.
Cabbages and Condoms, Bangkok is not just a condom kingdom, but a social enterprise that aims to raise awareness and promote sexual health, prevent AIDS and STIs and tackle many other issues. We stan! First, you will be greeted by statues made of condoms or decorated with them. Your table will be covered in rubber friends, even damn lamps are shaped like condoms! They also have a room where you can learn more about this must-have item and see a truly massive collection of different condoms. And bonus points, they also give free condoms. A win-win situation all around, so Happy Holidays, bitches! Photo credits to respective owners:
#4: Ichiran ramen shop eliminated need to talk to people
Weird Restaurant #4 on my list is Ichiran Ramen, Tokyo. This one was a big surprise for me. Eating out is a common thing in many cultures. Everybody gets together to share a nice meal, the latest gossips, and whatnot. But Japan is one of the few countries, where the one-person population is increasing; thus, the Ichiran Ramen shop is incredibly popular. It looks like this:
It’s just you and your food. They ultimately got rid of the stage where you have to talk to someone. You order the dishes via a machine at the entrance. Once you are seated, there are walls to separate you from neighbours. A few moments later food arrives but you do not even see who serves it. It sounds like a paradise for introverts! As a massive extravert, I was taken aback first. We went there with 3 other friends, and we naturally started to laugh. Still, since we all came from different countries, it was interesting to discuss that one-person society is a current reality in Japan and South Korea.
Japan houses dozens of exciting, bizarre restaurants. While robot or maid cafes fascinate a lot of people, it was a ramen shop for one-person, which left me in awe. The idea of loneliness hit me hard when I imagined the prospect of being alone all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling solo, I love freedom and independence. Still, the idea of becoming a one-person family unit scared me. And I admit that I wouldn’t be able to handle loneliness for a long-time regardless of how much I enjoy my own company. Visiting Ichiran Ramen is a cultural experience, it’s a lot more than it seems at first glance.
#5: Pet cafes: cats, dogs, raccoons, owls, and even meerkats
Are you surprised that pet cafes are on the list of odd restaurants? Well, actually they can be quite bizarre in a negative way. You might end up in a place, where owners exploit poor animals for your entertainment. Ethical travelling is our responsibility, and we must take care of our little friends. I do not believe animals should be kept in cages or locked in glass boxes, and yes, that what happens in many pet cafes! Let’s be sensible and responsible travellers,
If you do not want to contribute to this trend, please, avoid that kind of place! I personally visited cat and dog cafes in Thailand, where they housed sheltered kitties and doggies. I don’t believe unique restaurant themes should have any animals if they don’t help them. Unfortunately, very often, we don’t even suspect how cruel some people can be. Do your research and read up more about ethical travelling. It’s 2020, baby, we need to raise awareness about this issue!
There are right places as well, our world isn’t as doomed as it seems sometimes. There are plenty of pet cafes, where they take stray cats and dogs and give them shelter and food. Moral of the story: do your research and decide on your own if you want to visit a pet cafe. Speaking from personal experience, before we chose one cafe to visit in Bangkok, we researched what kind of place it was. Also as my friend was Thai, she talked to owners to understand more about the idea behind opening a pet cafe and only after that, she gave us the green light to visit it and play with fluffy purring kitties.
One more thing about unique restaurants around the world
Travelling provides that rare opportunity to understand more about the foreign country and gain in-depth knowledge based on national food and restaurants, which you can’t find elsewhere. Going beyond traditional places is truly worth it as you will always remember that quasi-porn Japanese izakaya, condoms restaurant or poop-shaped ice-cream you ate in Taiwan.
Food tourism is growing day by day, we all love having a good meal, and as consumers, we are no longer satisfied with an average restaurant. We want more: better, shinier, bigger. We are influenced by strangers’ reviews and friends recommendations, Google and Tripadvisor stars. I am not even ashamed to say that once we spent 2 hours looking for a decent venue for dinner. By the time we made our decision, the places closed their doors already as the clock hit 9 pm and apparently Belgium doesn’t eat out after 21:00. We don’t remember average experiences, but we always have memories of exceptionally delicious or horrible food OR weird restaurant themes. Therefore, I recommend to get out of your comfort zone and once in a while visit bizarre cafe.
And that was my list of top 5 unique restaurants around the world, all based on my personal experience.
Have you ever been to a really odd restaurant? Share your experience in the comments below.