Climb aboard the newly christened Somali restaurant, Terror Haute (formerly the Saudi super tanker Sirius Star) and prepare your taste buds to be boarded. The brain child of Somali pirate-turned-chef Abdi Wali Bihi, every inch of the former cargo ship is imbued with Chef Bihi’s philosophy: That fine dining and hostage taking should be synonymous.
“The element of surprise is crucial,” says Chef Bihi.
The restaurant’s well-heeled patrons, most often kidnapped from cruise ships and luxury yachts in the Gulf of Aden, typically spend two to three days locked in the hold before beginning their dining experience. According to Chef Bihi, starvation and numbing fear are the best palate cleansers, de rigueur for fully appreciating the full spectrum of Somali pirate cuisine.
Just ask former hostage Emily Wasserbahn, who along with her husband Peter and their ten-year-old Yorkie, Mr. Bean, were taken hostage on a recent balmy Wednesday evening by Chef Bihi’s operatives. The Wasserbahns babbled ecstatically while stuffing their mouths with corn patties and hummus before being set free after an undisclosed ransom was paid.
The prix fixe menu is created daily by Chef Bihi, generally grouped around a theme. On the night after the Wasserbahns were freed, Chef Bihi created a camel-themed dinner, which included camel toes en croute, fermented camel milk served in the traditional leather holder called a kuchey, pulled camel drizzled with Chef Bihi’s signature barbecue sauce, and a dessert of delicate crème camel.
Chef Bihi’s meteoric rise to culinary stardom began when he achieved notoriety on the hit Somali reality show, The Gulf of Aden’s Deadliest Boarding. On the second season, he and his fellow pirates landed the super tanker Sirius Star, and surprised the Saudi owners by demanding a restaurant in lieu of a more traditional ransom.
“Most pirates want a few million dollars and a high-speed hovercraft, but I’m not most pirates,” says Chef Bihi.
A self-described “foodie” who spent his youth watching pirated DVDs of the Seattle-based ’70s PBS cooking show, The Galloping Gourmet, Chef Bihi experimented for months on a fusion between continental and sub-Saharan cuisines before trying out his concoctions on terrified crews of foreign vessels.
The size of twenty football fields, Terror Haute might seem intimidating to Somali pirate cuisine newbies, but Bihi achieves an intimacy that harkens back to the days when mom and pop restaurants in Manhattan’s Little Italy drove select patrons in the trunk of a Caddy to a field in New Jersey.
“Once we have you, we’re not letting you go,” Bihi says with disarming candor and a big grin. “We consider ourselves at the forefront of the Slow Food movement.”
Dress code: “Hostage casual”
Reservations: Getting in is not the problem.
Prices: A good negotiator is a plus.