Deep fried eel bones. Goat eyeball tacos. Breaded blowfish. All badass-sounding items featured at New York City restaurants both luxe (bones at Sushi Yasuda and blowfish at Oceana) and low (eyeballs at Taqueria Puebla in Staten Island).
Ingest one of these babies and you'll have a story to impress your foodie friends—and gross out your less-adventurous ones—for months. Which is exactly what some of the restaurateurs offering these delicacies want you to do: Get people talking about, say, barbecued pigs head, and hopefully you'll have them flocking to your place just to say they've had them.
"There's a huge interest level in this," says Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern. "Diners are seeing people like Tony [Bourdain] and myself talking about how great this all tastes. There's also that sense—like in the getemono bars in Tokyo—where it's people trying to out-macho each other by eating this stuff."
Of course none of this would work if there weren't more palatable-sounding options on the menu to draw everyone else in. And sometimes, the "stunt foods" really aren't that out-there: Yasuda's fried bones taste like a ridiculously crunchy potato chip, while Oceana's blowfish—a non-poisonous variety from the Carolinas, not from Japan—tastes like, well, chicken.
"I wasn't going to jump on the fried chicken bandwagon, but I thought, 'F-ck it, we're a seafood restaurant, why don't we do chicken fried blowfish,'" says Oceana executive chef Ben Pollinger. "You can treat it just like fried chicken—it's very tender, very moist."
So are diners biting? "It sells pretty well," says Pollinger, who offers the blowfish as a $29 bar special, served with a half-dozen oysters and a glass of Porterhouse Oyster Stout. "At least 30 orders a night."
CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel. @clarissanyc1