Chef Tanabe makes delicious restaurant food using soil. Fancy a bite?
Dictionaries give the definition of soil as ‘the substance that plants grow in’. Nowhere does it say that soil is a type of food that humans eat. Yet world famous chef Toshio Tanabe has started serving soil in his restaurant in Japan. Ne Quittez Pas, as its name suggests, is a French restaurant in Tokyo. And Chef Tanabe has constructed a soil menu of seven dishes for his customers to try.
There are two starters on the menu: potato and soil soup, followed by a salad with soil dressing. The soup is dark brown and is served in a glass that is usually used for serving spirits such as whisky or vodka. A slice of black truffle is placed precariously on top of the glass. The idea is that diners take a bite of the truffle followed by a sip of the soup. Those who have tried it, say that it tastes divine and that there is no hint of the texture of soil in the soup. The salad is made with grilled turnip, aubergine and tomato served with a dressing of soil and ground popcorn. Apparently, it is the freshness of the vegetables that impresses diners and not the presence of soil.
The two main courses of the menu also contain soil. The first one has a slightly esoteric name: minerals of the sea and minerals of the land. This is a kind of jelly made with oriental clams and the top layer of sediment from the sea bed. The second is a soil risotto with sautéed sea bass and the root of a plant called burdock. With neither of these dishes do diners report having tasted anything that reminds them of soil.
To compliment the starters and main courses, the chef has also concocted two soil deserts. The first is soil ice cream, which is self-explanatory, and the second is soil gratin, a dish topped with breadcrumbs and placed under the grill. Both deserts ooze with richness and are a perfect compliment to the mild flavours of the previous courses. The deserts are followed by a refreshing soil mint tea, which, although it looks like a cup of muddy water, has the surprising effect of cleaning the palate.
Chef Tanabe obviously does not use any old soil for his dishes. The substance he uses is imported from India and Sri Lanka by a company called Proleaf. It is purified and tested, then purified again and retested before distribution. In the restaurant, Chef Tanabe mixes the soil with other ingredients to make the texture more liquid. By the time it reaches the table, it has very little resemblance to anything you would find in the average garden.
More adventurous restaurant-goers who find themselves in Tokyo can try Chef Tanabe’s menu for 80 euros a head. That is, if they call his restaurant Ne Quittez Pas a week in advance to book a table. So how about you? Would you try it? There can’t be anything much more natural than soil on this planet, so why not give it a go? You never know, you may have a pleasant surprise!
Geophagy: the practice of eating earth
Strange ingredients in food
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