World’s Craziest Tasting Menus
Dried grasshoppers. Minke whale tapas. Roasted marrowbone with snails. From the high-minded and Michelin-starred to the borderline absurd (an entire meal of water?), we've dished up some wild tasting menus sure to tickle both your fancy and your tastebuds.
Copenhagen practically invented the high-concept tasting menu, at the same time as becoming the global culinary capital, so it's no surprise that many of the city's top chefs are still at it. Case in point: Rasmus Kofoed, whose Geranium restaurant in the city center has reached white-hot Noma levels. Cancel all other activities for "The Universe Tasting Menu," a 14-course extravaganza that might include glossy spheres of candied carrot shells filled with seabuckthorn foam, an edible Jerusalem artichoke "tree" and deer served with beetroot and berries.
British superstar chef Heston Blumenthal isn't averse to experimentation⎯his three Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant became famous for madcap dishes like nitro scrambled egg and bacon ice cream⎯and his latest London venture retains the same whimsical genius while paying homage to historic British gastronomy. Expect old school English delicacies like "Salamagundy," otherwise known as chicken oysters served with marrow bone and horseradish, savory porridge with frog's legs and powdered duck breast with blood pudding.
Test Kitchen, Cape Town
Now that we live in a world where chefs are as passionate about heirloom carrots as pork belly, vegetarian tasting menus are on the rise. One of the best around comes courtesy of British-born chef Luke Dale-Roberts, whose award-winning Cape Town Test Kitchen restaurant serves a 12-course "Vegetarian Gourmand" evening menu and a lunchtime "Vegetarian Discovery" that can also be coupled with a tea pairing. Tuck into dishes like home-dried tomato with sesame and aubergine puree and smoked goats cheese mousse; African beet rosti served with Amasi curd, wood fired onion stock and quail egg; barbecued broccoli with blue cheese and salt-baked celeriac with smoked red onion foam. Test results: extremely positive.
Billy Kwong, Sydney
One of Australia's most feted chefs, Kylie Kwong, has always had a deft hand when it comes to upscale Chinese cooking, but she's at the height of her considerable powers these days, incorporating wild, foraged and rare Australian ingredients into her homey Chinese flavors. Her 7-course set menus at Billy Kwong feature ingredients like samphire (an aromatic seaside plant), native basil, roasted mealworm and a form of saltbush native to Australia. Care to taste one of the country's cute marsupials? Kwong's steamed wallaby with pork and goji berry should do the trick.
Ray’s and Stark Bar, Los Angeles
Would anyone really be surprised to learn that a tasting menu dedicated entirely to water would be found in health-obsessed LA? Ray's and Stark Bar, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), offers a 20-strong tasting menu of H2O presented by Martin Riese, General Manager and "Water Sommelier," who pours thirsty guests a series of designer waters sourced globally, from Norway to Beverly Hills. There are even tasting notes and flavor profiles (sweet, salty, smooth and complex.) The food menu, meanwhile, features delicate-but-delicious dishes guaranteed to keep the Hollywood crowd svelte: think "foraged lettuces" and hamachi served with green strawberries, bergamot, kumquat and prickly pear sorbet.
Bar Bolonat, New York
The culinary wizards who brought us New York hotspots Taim and Balaboosta are also behind this West Village restaurant, whose menu is a heady melange of flavors that combines food traditions from Ethiopia and Yemen as well as "New Israeli" cooking inspired by chef Einat Admony's love of Tel Aviv street food. Gather some friends and order up the $85 per head tasting menu, served family style and featuring far-from-everyday taste sensations like cauliflower with peanut tahini, shrimp in Yemenite curry and a whole chicken with pomegranate and crispy rice.
Tapas Barinn, Reykjavík
Iceland is justifiably famous for its awe-inspiring landscapes, awesome music and Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, but Icelandic cuisine tends to get overlooked. This cozy, rather wacky tapas joint in downtown Reykjavík aims to change all that, offering a tasting menu showcasing Icelandic flavors that are sure to linger long after your trip. Where else will you get the chance to sample dishes like smoked puffin with blueberry “brennivín” sauce, grilled Icelandic lamb and minke whale?
Fairmont Mayakoba, Mexico
This Riviera Maya favorite keeps raising the bar when it comes to imaginative guest diversions. Tastings are a specialty here: agave aficionados can embark on a tequila or mezcal journey hosted by a certified Tequilier and there’s also a craft beer degustation experience, where you can sample the country's best brews. But our favorite is the insect tasting menu, a surprisingly delicious adventure that includes dried grasshoppers, maguey worms, leaf-cutter ants and ant eggs (all traditional Mexican botanas) which arrive at the table with onion and cilantro, hand-made corn or flour tortillas and three hot sauces.
The pan-Asian sharing menu at this Covent Garden hotspot draws the crowds, but it's the atmosphere that pushes this dining experience into the stratosphere. Grab eight of your best pals and settle in for a meal that starts with prosecco and edamame on ice, continues with roasted and raw vegetarian maki rolls and duck with watermelon, and ends with a cheesecake bento box. That is, if you can concentrate on eating while surrounded by fire eaters, acrobats, sultry burlesque dancers and cabaret performers.