High-end adventurers have plenty of options, from luxury safaris to guided Antarctic treks. But few think of food as a frontier offering the same kind of adrenaline-rush-inducing excitement. Maybe they should: a growing number of restaurants offer new opportunities for those bored with traditional dining. Forget wearing a sport coat while waiting for a soufflé; this is eating as extreme sport.
Dinner in the Sky elevates top chefs, along with other staff members and 22 guests, to unmatched heights—up to 50 meters in the air, to be precise—where they can enjoy open-air bird's-eye views and Michelin-starred cuisine. The dining platform is raised by a crane, and can be erected anywhere as long as there's an available surface of approximately 500 square meters on the ground. Each dining event is customized to reflect the organizer's preferences; Dinner in the Sky provides the technology and helps secure the desired talent, such as Alain Passard of the three-Michelin-star L'Arpège in Paris. Prices vary dramatically from country to country depending on the chef and number of guests; in Belgium an eight-hour event starts at $11,600. Although Dinner in the Sky may not be the best choice for those with a fear of heights, the experience has been authorized in more than 15 countries, including those with tough regulatory standards such as the United States. Each seat comes with a four-point seat belt, which must be buckled at all times. More important, bathroom breaks are allowed; the whole table will have to go down with you, but it takes less than a minute (dinnerinthesky.com).
The Singapore Flyer, a giant wheel modeled along the lines of the London Eye, also offers dinner airborne. The high-tech ride, which completes a rotation every 30 minutes, features 28 glass-enclosed capsules. In one, approximately 10 diners can enjoy one of two three-course menus, priced at $145 or $180. The more expensive menu features creations by noted L.A. chef Joanne Purnell; sample dishes include vanilla-scented braised beef and pan-seared salmon with sesame. Guests take their choice of two seatings, at 7:30 or 8:30. The first two courses are served during two rotations on the Flyer, with dessert and coffee delivered afterward in the VIP lounge. Or high fliers can rent out the entire capsule for roughly $1,100 and enjoy 60 minutes in heaven (singaporeflyer.com).
Those who prefer to keep both feet firmly on the ground can opt for a different form of sensory thrill at Dans le Noir?, a gourmet "blind" restaurant with branches in Paris, London, and Moscow (and future sites in Barcelona and New York), which deprives diners of their sight in order to amplify their sense of taste. Guests arrive in an anteroom where they order a cocktail and learn about the concept. Then they're led to their seats in a pitch-black room by blind guides who serve and facilitate the experience. Vegetarian, meat, and seafood menus are available along with a chef's-choice selection; in Paris, two courses run from approximately $57. The founders emphasize that they are offering more than just an offbeat fancy meal; they're trying to question the role that sight plays in our lives, pushing guests to connect with their surroundings and fellow diners in a challenging way (danslenoir.com).
At Finland's Snow Restaurant, the sense of touch takes center stage. Located inside an ice complex, the restaurant is connected to an elaborate castle, hotel, and chapel, all constructed from compacted, frozen snow. In addition to a reservation, guests will need a proper winter coat, boots, cap, and gloves to fully appreciate the experience (and avoid frostbite); the temperature is kept at minus 5 degrees Celsius. Gourmet set menus range from about $51 to $69 and feature Scandinavian delicacies like reindeer filet with lingonberries. The tables, bar counters, and sculpted columns are all made of ice, and the minimalist décor is offset by a lighting scheme that adds a jolt of intense color. Wooden stools and benches covered in fur are the only concession to traditional notions of comfort (snowcastle.net/en). But comfort, after all, is not what culinary adventurers crave.
Zillion Dollar Frittata
On the menu at Norma's at Le Parker Meridien hotel in New York, this $1,000 six-egg omelette comes complete with an entire lobster's worth of meat and 10 ounces of sevruga caviar on top.
Made from coffee beans that have passed through a civet's digestive tract, a cup of this smooth, sweet brew will set you back about AU$50 at the Heritage Tea Rooms in Queensland, Australia; a kilo runs $1,200.
Double-Boiled Bird's Nest
The Chinese restaurant Yu in Perth, Australia, immerses the nests in rich lobster, crab, and chicken soups. Harvested from certain species of swifts, they contain saliva believed to have medicinal powers; AU$136.
La Madeline au Truffe
This roughly $2,600-per-pound treat, sold at Knipschildt Chocolatier in Norwalk, Connecticut, stars a French Périgord truffle surrounded by single-bean dark-chocolate ganache and dusted with cocoa powder.