BY DIANE MOONEY
Special to SQUID INK
Shenzhen, China -- In China, where restroom-goers often squat on top of rare Western-style commodes, the Shenzhen restaurant Modern Toilet encourages everyone to sit down and relax instead. The Taiwanese chain -- yes, there's more than one -- features toilets for chairs, mini-toilets for dishes, and urinal-shaped glasses for drinks.
The locals here seem to have embraced toilet dining with enthusiasm. On weekends, the new Shenzhen branch, just across the Hong Kong border, is packed with the young dining on fried rice and curries.
The friendly waiters bring us our own Modern Toilet table mascot, a stuffed homunculus with a swirl of poop for hair and a runny nose. We've already got another one keeping us company inside our glass-covered bathtub table. Cameras flash constantly as patrons pose for pictures sitting on toilets or standing next to shower gear and bathrobes tacked to the wall.
The food is much less fun than the décor. Chunks of corn on the cob, crab with a "k," and gray, stringy pork float in a watery Thai curry. The rice is dry. The signature doo-doo twist of chocolate ice cream in a squat commode -- the dish that launched the whole chain -- turns out to be anemic ice milk.
While the food didn't bowl us over, Modern Toilet's excretory experience definitely wasn't a waste. The quirky charm of the outhouse atmosphere brings toilets out of the water closet and into the watering hole. After all, everybody poops.
Modern Toilet, Shenzhen branch, 2nd Floor, JieFanlu 1004# Dongmen BuxingJie Shenzhen. Phone: 0755-82229281.