#3. The Sound of the Sea
There are only four restaurants in the United Kingdom that have received three Michelin stars. Two of those restaurants belong to Frenchmen. One belongs to Gordon Ramsay. And then there's the Fat Duck. The Fat Duck is often called one of the best restaurants in the world, and it's operated by a bona fide mad scientist. Its head chef, Heston Blumenthal, has dedicated his life to the most important questions about food. If his work is any indication, every single one of these questions is: "How can I make the person eating this lose his goddamn mind?"
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Heston Blumenthal, seen here designing a chair with one leg that's too short.
Blumenthal's menus read like he's aspiring to be a food-themed Batman villain. They have an Alice in Wonderland-themed dish that consists of mock turtle soup and a dissolving pocket watch. They have scrambled-egg-and-bacon ice cream and bright green snail porridge. And then there is "sound of the sea."
Instantly recognizable on their menu as the only dish with quotation marks around its name, sound of the sea looks less like food and more like a giant "fuck you" from the kitchen. A strange mini-collection of plants, sand, and frothy foam, the dish looks like it can't possibly be edible. Yet its each and every element is an insanely complicated food item: The sand is made of panko breadcrumbs, baby eels, and half a dozen other things. The "sea" froth is cockles, mussels, carrots, and ... well, here's the recipe if you want to give it a shot. There are no less than 55 separate ingredients in there, all painstakingly prepared to create the "taste" of the sea.
To accompany this treat, you are given a seashell with an iPod in it. You put on the ear buds and listen to the sounds of waves crashing and seagulls squawking. These sounds of the sea (get it?) let your ears in on the dining experience, and the effects add up by making the dish also look and smell even more sea-like than it did before.
Hell, you could almost believe you're standing by an actual sea. A weak, helpless sea that you will now devour and destroy.
Yes, Heston Blumenthal has created the world's first Cthulhu simulator.
#2. The Card Trick
Eleven Madison Park, a perennial contender in world's best restaurant rankings, has found success in the crowded food scene of the Big Apple thanks to its arsenal of clever gimmicks. They have a carrot tartare dish that somehow passes for steak and a drink cart that roams the restaurant hall serving Manhattan cocktails. However, those are just trimmings. The biggest trick up their sleeve is an after-dinner chocolate, which is simply magical. Literally.
Where did the plates go? Magic.
The server comes over to your table after you've finished your cheesecake, carrying a deck of cards. He or she asks you to cut it and pick any card. Each of the cards has a different chocolate flavor on it, such as lime or raspberry. The waiter then asks you to flip over your cheesecake plate -- and there, right in front of you, is a chocolate that corresponds to your card.
They do this mind-blowing trick to every single customer who eats there.
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And 2 percent of them get goddamn lime.
Eleven Madison Park created the trick in cooperation with Dan White and Jonathan Bayme, two illusionists who have collaborated with small-time players such as David freaking Copperfield. Even the chefs have no idea how it works, as the trick is only taught to the servers, who are sworn to secrecy. All we know is that the trick is based on three-card monte, a classic game New York hustlers use to cheat gullible people out of their money.
It's probably no coincidence that it comes just before the bill.
#1. The Liquorice Nitro-Dragon (and Other Liquid Nitrogen Dishes)
elBulli was a celebrated Spanish restaurant that also relied heavily on molecular gastronomy. Under its head chef, Ferran Adria, dishes such as potato-foam "Spanish omelettes," liquid olives, and wood-smoked water were all par for the course. Some of elBulli's weirdest menu items were little treats called morphs. They were tiny dishes that looked like one thing but tasted like another. These Transformer foods included corals that were actually chocolate, envelopes made of sugar, and marshmallows disguised as human hands, because apparently no one cares how many serial killer flags you raise when you're really, really good at cooking.
They're not quivering in pain. They're ... applauding. Yeah, applauding.
Still, regardless of your opinion of overly artsy cuisine, everything is forgiven of elBulli thanks to a morph called the liquorice nitro-dragon. Its recipe isn't readily available, but it was apparently a simple liquorice puree that was flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen. You'd carefully put it in your mouth, and the vapors from the nitrogen would just shoot out your nose and mouth, making you look like a dragon gearing up to fry some hero ass.
Murdo Macleod/The Guardian
Chef Adria hatched the restaurant's dragon eggs personally.
Adria's elBulli is currently defunct, but luckily he is far from the only person who has recognized the awesomeness of the dragon dessert. Liquid nitrogen nibbles seem to be popping up everywhere, from high end restaurants to gimmicky ice cream parlors. Behold, the dragon breath popcorn:
And the liquid nitrogen s'more:
When the next season of Game of Thrones begins, that's all we're going to eat.
Related Reading: Fast foods can be just as ridiculous as their expensive-fancy cousins. The Duncan Donuts bacon breakfast sandwich is proof of that. If health foods are more your thing, check out this dish of fish testicles and semen. Or don't. Don't is probably better. Feeling bummed now? read about the great foods created by dick moves.