Before fast-food restaurants and supermarkets, dinner
sometimes came courtesy of daring exploits. Hunters bagged big game, foragers
played hide and seek, and farmers often had to wrestle the main course.
Now that the thrill of the hunt has mostly been replaced by the era of the Google search, those who still want dinner with a side of adventure have fewer options.
Here are four places to eat when a craving for daring dining strikes...
In a Bar Made of Ice
In the western part of Finnish Lapland is an icy confection of a resort known as Snow Village. North of the Arctic Circle, average January temperatures at Snow Village hover around -15 degrees Celsius, or 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Open December through first melt (generally in mid-April), Snow Village is a fantasy land of ice sculptures, built for sliding — and even sleeping in.
In SnowHotel, guests sleep in crystalline igloos in arctic-grade sleeping bags on ice-block beds. There's even an ice chapel, specializing in winter wonderland weddings.
At the heart of it all is Ice Bar, serving Lappish food. The cuisine of Lapland, appropriately enough for such a seasonally specific restaurant, takes its cues from nature. That often means dining on reindeer, which inhabit the coniferous forests of the region. It also means cloudberries, smoked meat and cold-water fish like Arctic char.
All furniture inside the restaurant is made from ice and covered with furs and wooden mats to protect the posteriors of diners and preserve the integrity of the ice.
"Certainly there are things you have to do differently than in the normal bar because of the temperature, -2 to -5 Celsius," says Heini Korvenkangas, a sales manager at the resort.
For example, all dishes are served on wooden plates. "Wood is a very good isolator between cold and hot, so there is no danger of melting the table," adds Korvenkangas. And, since the restaurant is so cold, drinks can be served in glasses made entirely of ice (and drinks which don't contain alcohol are always in danger of freezing).
Such extreme temperatures beg the question: how does one dress for such an experience? At Snow Village, comfort trumps fashion.
"Sometimes, people come to dinner wearing too light clothing," Korvenkangas says. "In these occasions, we can borrow them some warm clothing, such as boots or overalls."
In a Subway
In Tokyo, Japan, there's a restaurant that defies explanation. Sukiyabashi Jiro is a tiny sushi bar with only 10 seats. It's run by Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the greatest sushi chef in the world.
The 113-year-old Michelin Guide in 2008 awarded Sukiyabishi Jiro three Michelin stars, a distinction only 68 restaurants in the world could boast at the time. Jiro is the first — and, at 87, the oldest — sushi chef in the world to receive such high praise.
And his restaurant in located in a subway station.
He's still trying, however, and the hopeful make pilgrimages from all over the world for the rare privilege of experiencing Jiro's 30,000-yen (approximately $375), 19-piece tasting menu.
Behind an Unmarked Door
Some people like their steak served with an air of secrecy. At Vernon's Hidden Valley Steakhouse in Albuquerque, N.M., it's a bit of a trick to get in the door — if you can even find it.
While making reservations, Vernon's guests are armed with a password and directions to a nondescript shopping center in Los Ranchos village. Below a sign advertising "Los Ranchos Liquors" is a black door, locked from the inside and marked only by a red light. You knock three times on the door and divulge the password to gain entry, 1920s speakeasy style.
Behind the door is a sort of steakhouse purgatory, where an intimidating "goomba" runs down rather reasonable house rules, including turning off cell phones. After that, it's a relatively smooth transition to traditional steakhouse dining in a darkened, swanky room.
The secrecy doesn't end there. According to Minda Harrell, operations director for the restaurant, there's even a VIP lounge hidden within the restaurant, accessed by a biometric thumb reader.
Clearly, all the exclusivity isn't scaring away diners.
"We've barely scratched the surface of the population, but we have continually grown in one of the worst economies in history," Harrell says.
Suspended in the Air
Arguably the ultimate in daring dining is Dinner in the Sky, an experience not for those with acrophobia. The Brussels, Belgium-based moveable feast hoists by crane a dinner table, along with staff and strapped-in diners, 150 feet in the air.
David Ghysels, creator and owner of the concept, says few diners have developed a late-onset fear of heights. "Very rarely, as Dinner in the Sky is very stable and doesn't dangle at all — much less than a ski seat," he adds.
Dinner in the Sky has held events in more than 45 countries, including France, Denmark, Canada, Australia and Israel. Ghysels says the most unusual event took place in Beirut, Lebanon. A table was hoisted over the Mediterranean, where a little blue fishing boat passed by, carrying an opera singer who serenaded the 22 guests.
Despite the high-altitude dining, Ghysels says no plates or champagne flutes have ever flown overboard. "Just some napkins, forks or mobile phone," he says. "That's why we have always a 15 to 30-meter safety perimeter on the ground so that nobody can be hurt if something drops from the table."
To be on the even safer side, Ghysel says Dinner in the Sky doesn't operate in wind above four knots. "We want our guests to have a pleasant experience," he says. "Dinner in the Sky is everything — but not a thrilling attraction."
"Thrilling," apparently, is subjective.