I never thought I’d be caught eating out of a toilet bowl, but there I was, scooping out chunks of brown stuff from a lime green loo. The loose watery goo looked remarkably like you-know-what, but I tried not to think about it. Instead, I chose to wash the slop down with yellow liquid served from a plastic bed pan.
This is a typical lunch at the Modern Toilet restaurant, a kitschy café in the heart of Taipei’s Shilin district.
It’s fair to say that the restaurant’s theme is crap. The décor is bathroom-like: blue tiles, toilet paper dispensers, mirrors along the wall and shower curtains hung from the ceilings. Guests sit on toilets (seats down boys) and eat over sink-style tables.
Actual dishes take the form of toilet bowls, while cups look like mini urinals. There are toilet chachkas around the room and spiral brown clumps of doggie doo-doo on the tables.
It’s an unusual gimmick but given the first Modern Toilet restaurant opened four years ago and has expanded into a franchise of some 10 restaurants around the city, it’s clearly a hit, drawing a clientele of mostly young people in high school and college.
Sitting atop my porcelain throne I had a look at the menu. According to a small poo symbol (located beside certain items on the menu) Japanese-style hot pots, hot chili chicken and the cheesy noodles are some of the most popular dishes.
Dessert turned out to be an obscene display of sweets on a mound of shaved ice. It was smothered in strawberry sauce, topped with marshmallows, raisins and cubes of unidentifiable green jelly.
Though the food was decent, gourmet cuisine certainly isn’t the main reason that most people come.
A visit here begs the question: Why would anyone want to eat out of a mock toilet bowl? There’s something truly revolting about combining human waste with food, yet Modern Toilet makes this concept fun, subtly challenging the cultural taboos of poo.
Back at home, dinner discussions about bowel movements aren’t exactly encouraged but here, toilet humor is an inescapable topic of conversation.
Sitting at a table nearby were Helen and Rachel, two twenty-somethings who just graduated from the University of Toronto. On their celebratory week-long trip to Taiwan, the toilet restaurant topped their list of local tourist attractions. After visiting Taipei 101, currently the world’s tallest building (a record soon to be overturned by Shanghai and Dubai), Modern Toilet was the next hotspot on their list.
Between bites of stool-colored curried chicken, they admitted that a trip here made great fodder for Facebook photographs. “This toilet restaurant is fun,” said one of the girls, taking a sip of strawberry milkshake from her bed-pan inspired cup. “It’s the shit.”