Thursday, February 27

Extreme dining

View this gallery to peek into extreme L.A. restaurants.

(Photos by Jim Summers, Tiffany Cheng; photo courtesy of Opaque)

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Extreme dining

Elisa Mosler / Daily Bruin

For the fraction of Angelenos who don’t consider getting their fries “animal style” the most cutting edge culinary experience they’ll ever get, Los Angeles does not disappoint. Though ordering from a secret menu may seem exciting, Los Angeles offers much more by way of interesting dining, from pitch-black dinners to eating on a spaceship.

You probably wouldn’t meet for a first date at The Stinking Rose. Or, for that matter, any date. When the Italian restaurant’s menu states “We season our garlic with food,” it does not exaggerate. Everything the restaurant serves contains garlic, save, thankfully, a few desserts. From whole roasted garlic cloves and garlic fish and chips to garlic ice cream, the fragrant vegetable is impossible to escape.

Founded by two Italian-Americans in San Francisco 20 years ago, The Stinking Rose opened a branch in Beverly Hills in 1995. Three tons of garlic are used every month by both branches.

“Garlic is one thing that is embraced by a lot of cultures. Everybody loves garlic ““ people from all kind of walks and all kinds of races love garlic,” said Massimo Marmelino, manager of The Stinking Rose.

The walls of the eatery are filled with representations of famous classic paintings, all, however, altered to include garlic. Michelangelo’s fresco “Creation of Adam,” which usually depicts God passing the spark of life to Adam with his finger, now shows God handing Adam a bulb of garlic.

“Garlic has a lot of properties. It has minerals, vitamins and proteins. It’s a complete nutrient for the body ““ it’s good for everything. Garlic expels the toxins from your body and it cleanses the body, that’s why you stink. It’s a healthy stink,” Marmelino said.

For those who prefer their food less fragrant, there is Opaque, where the menu remains fairly simple. After all, it could probably get a bit tricky trying to shovel mouthloads of risotto in the dark without leaving the restaurant looking like a toddler. Opaque is the first California restaurant where diners eat in complete darkness.

Diners choose their food from a menu in a lit lounge before being escorted into the pitch-black dining room, where they spend the rest of their evening. Blind and visually impaired waiters lead guests to their seats and leave them quite literally in the dark as to what will happen next.

“It’s the way you perceive things all of a sudden ““ you are forced to use your other senses,” said Opaque owner Benjamin Uphues. “This means you smell what is in front of you. You listen to how many people are in the room with you. You appreciate the different textures and flavors more.”

Without sight, the human body’s other senses become sharper, including the sense of smell. Opaque plays on this, serving simple yet strongly flavored dishes such as filet mignon and Ahi tuna steak. Chefs could not include foods that were too difficult to eat, meaning rice was off the menu.

“All other restaurants try to sell us different types of food, while we’re changing the setting rather than the food. That’s what makes it unique ““ you’re experiencing something completely different,” Uphues said.

Only a few miles south of Opaque, diners can expect a much more supernatural experience at Encounter, an intergalactic-themed restaurant in a spaceship-shaped building in Los Angeles International Airport.

Diners are treated to alien sounds in the elevator before stepping out into the futuristic restaurant with its moonstone walls, giant lava lamps and crater-filled ceiling. Laser lights and space sounds are released from bar guns when waiters make drinks at the crater-shaped bar.

The owners decided against real dehydrated astronaut space food, instead opting for a classic menu featuring pasta dishes and seafood. The cocktails, however, follow the theme ““ guests can choose to sip on “Black Hole” and “Jet Set” margaritas as well as cosmos.

“It’s a unique restaurant, it’s one of a kind,” said manager Kenneth Merritt. “We have the best view in the city of Los Angeles. And at nighttime, when it gets dark, it really comes alive with all the lava lamps and the interior.”

Encounter’s interior was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, which perhaps explains its wackiness; the futuristic building was awarded the title of “City Cultural and Historical Monument” by the Los Angeles City Council.

In a city as diverse as Los Angeles, it’s only natural that there are so many out-there restaurants. Think twice next time you head to In-N-Out ““ there could be a much more exciting dining experience waiting for you around the corner.

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