“There’s poop everywhere! Y-u-c-k,” says six-year old Jordan Lien, as he and his family dine at the Modern Toilet, a popular Taiwanese restaurant that’s expanding into China and other parts of Asia. The boy was looking at the poop-shaped lights and dish covers, and the curry on toilet-shaped plates.
Diarrhea for dinner That’s the point. “It’s supposed to shock and confuse the senses,” says Modern Toilet Manager Chen Min-kuang. But as Jennifer Finch, an American who was dining there described it, “They do it tastefully. It’s all very clean.”
Every customer sits on a stylish acrylic toilet designed with roses, seashells or renaissance paintings. Everyone dines at a glass table with a sink underneath. The servers bring your meal atop a mini-toilet bowl , you sip drinks from your own plastic urinal , and for dessert, soft swirl ice cream atop a dish shaped like a squat toilet.
I went there on a Wednesday evening, and the place was packed with students and families who were having a jolly time eating out of the john. “It’s very progressive and irreverent, like a practical joke,” says junior high school teacher Chen Kin-hsiang who came because her students raved about it. “It’s a little gross when you see other people eat,” she said, “but when you’re eating, you don’t notice it ’cause you’re hungry and the aroma is appetizing.” Smell is one poop-like quality the chef does without.
The reasonably priced food ranges from curries, pasta, fried chicken amd Mongolian hot pot, to elaborate shaved iced desserts with names like “diarrhea with dried droppings” , “bloody poop” , and “green dysentery” . Despite the disturbing descriptions, the desserts were great. But after seeing curry drip down a mini-toilet, I may never have that sauce again.
The Chinese can take this, Finch muses, because they are more nonchalant about bodily functions, such as burping, farting, or even going to the bathroom, an act performed squatting sans doors in some places in China. But many westerners enjoy the novelty of toilet dining too. Chris and Julia Harris took their visiting mother, who they say is obsessive-compulsive about cleanliness, to “freak her out,” but she had a great time . The only people who have a hard time, says Chen, are the elderly who’ve exclaimed, “I will not eat on the toilet!” .
Toilet creations aren’t new to China. The ancient Chinese may have been the first to use the throne a flush toilet was found in a tomb of a Western Han Dynasty king and they invented toilet paper in 6th century A.D. Modern Toilet owner Wang Zi-wei, 29, an ex-banker, got his idea from Japanese robot cartoon character Jichiwawa who loves to play with poop and swirl it on a stick. Inspired by that image, Wang began selling chocolate ice cream swirls on paper squat toilets. Customers loved it and wanted more edible excretion experiences, so he opened Modern Toilet in 2004. The theme restaurant now has seven outlets in Taiwan, one in Hong Kong, and opens in Shenzhen, China this week. Plans for Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and other cities in China are also underway. Dinner a la latrine, anyoneSee pictures of bug cuisine.
See 10 things to do in Beijing.