When it comes to dining as an experience, there’s the standard fare of high-end restaurants and then there are restaurants designed to be unfound. Reserved solely for the elite VIP or the select industry few in the know, there are dining establishments shrouded in mystery.
Today we’re clearing up a few of those mysteries by revealing some of the world’s best hidden restaurants that will turn your next meal into a mind-blowing journey of culinary excellence.
Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
Exclusivity reigns supreme at this three-Michelin-starred restaurant located in Shanghai. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet is a single-table restaurant conceived by the French chef that seats just 10 people per night. The impressive restaurant concept merges sound and sight with taste in order to transport diners to unique locations via their palate. Each dish and drink carries its own story and this is reflected not just in the food but in the shifting graphics, lighting and soundtrack. Thinking about walking in? Think again. The location is top secret and booked diners are transported to the restaurant via a minivan.
Address: Shanghai, bookings via Ultraviolet
Those who have tried to find this vegetarian restaurant have almost given up before being saved by a light-bulb moment – literally. The address leads visitors into an unused ground floor space that could easily double as an empty loading dock in a nondescript building. Find the lone chandelier hanging above though and you’ve found the entrance to Berlin’s Cookies Cream. The food itself brings together some of the finest in plant-based ingredients for a menu that doesn’t follow any particular rules besides exceptional flavours.
Sushi By Bou Suite 1001
One would never expect to find some of New York’s most decent sushi being served out of a non-descript 10th floor hotel room, and yet there is such a thing. Sushi By Bou Suite 1001 is an intimate sushi restaurant hidden behind a red-framed door inside Hotel 3232. And when we say intimate, we really mean it – there’s only enough seating for four guests who get to experience a 17-piece omakase degustation that will make diners feel like they’ve scored their own private chef. At US$125 a head, it’s not the most affordable, but the quality is up there with chef David Bouhadana at the helm – a man in charge of multiple premium sushi restaurants across NYC. Given its novel dining experience, Sushi By Bou Suite 1001 is usually booked out two months in advance, so no walk-ins.
Ronin Hong Kong
Tucked away in a quiet street on the bustling side of Central Hong Kong is a hidden Japanese izakaya dining bar which ranks as one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants. Finding this 24-seat eatery has been a source of frustration for some as the restaurant has no signs and is only distinguished by a matt anthracite steel door with a wooden handle. Once inside though the ambience immediately shifts with soft lighting, a bar crafted from 150-year-old kiln-dried Japanese timber and plush custom leather seats inspired by 70s muscle cars and vintage smoking rooms. The extensive rare Japanese whisky list even serves as an interior design feature, but if you’re more about the food, you better love seafood. Ronin’s menu changes daily depending on what they can source locally and fly in from the seas of Japan. This ensures freshness is paired with the food’s meticulous execution. Diners are also told exactly where their dish hails from. Think along the lines of crab, sea urchin and smoky seared eel paired to rich sake, craft beer, wine, cocktails and more.
Art and food is a common intersection in the world of fine dining, but it’s rarely ever taken this literally. Case in point, Frevo in New York City, which is a restaurant hidden inside an actual art gallery. To enter, patrons have to stroll through an exhibition filled with work from French painter Toma-L. Once the gallery’s largest painting is found, so is the entrance to Frevo. The restaurant itself is a 24-seat eatery serving up a five-course dinner with an eclectic cuisine, including everything from crab to curry. The menu is led by Brazilian chef Franco Sampogna.
Address: 48 W 8th St, New York
Aronia de Takazawa
They don’t call this place one of Tokyo’s most exclusive restaurants for nothing. Takazawa (formerly Aronia de Takazawa) is a Japanese-French fusion restaurant located in the business district of Asakasa. When it opened, it only catered for a table of eight; these days it caters to a table of 10 and dinner bookings are only taken via email. Diners are treated to a 10-course tasting menu meticulously prepared in front of them by chef Takazawa in a stunning stainless steel kitchen which acts as the restaurants centrepiece and culinary lab. Each beautifully presented dish is explained in detail to diners and there’s a wine pairing option with bottles from Japan and France. The menu items are creative with dishes such as Dinner in the Forest (2009), which is created to look like you’re dining off the forest floor – should that forest floor be a part of a $US400 degustation menu without drinks. What makes Takazawa one of the best hidden restaurants is the fact that there’s no signage outside. Next to a pot plant is a door frame illuminated in white. The glass door itself features only a very subtle ‘TAKAZAWA’ insignia. Find this and your job is half done.
While most restaurants mentioned are intentionally hidden, La Gruta is hidden thanks to a pyramid built by the Aztecs almost 2,000 years ago. Located in the once abandoned city of Teotihuacan north-east of Mexico City, the region is now a thriving tourist hub and sitting behind the massive pyramid is La Gruta, a traditional Mexican restaurant serving food out of a volcanic cave. As diners make their way down to the restaurant, there are multi-coloured lights which illuminates the space alongside naturally formed crevices in the ceiling. The impressive landscape opens up to long tables, covered with white tablecloths, and colourful chairs. Tacos, barbacoa and ant larvae sauteed with wormseed herb are all on the menu all accompanied with tequila and mezcal options. They even have mariachi bands to entertain diners.