If you’re looking for an unique night out, a recently-opened bar in New York may just be the ideal spot – though perhaps not for a first date.
At Play, a bar that launched this month in connection to New York’s Museum of Sex, an unusual menu explores the relationship between sex and food, and all the sensory experiences that go with it.
One such drink is the Pareidolia – aka ‘Lickable Skin’ – a white, viscous liquid served suggestively on a shallow, skin-textured plate, forcing drinkers to consume it in the only way possible – by lapping it up with their tongues.
MailOnline visited Play on Wednesday evening to try out its signature artisanal drinks and explore the tongue-in-cheek venue.
The bar is dimly lit by electric blue and red lights and decorated with red leather couches and white wooden bookshelves.
Upon closer inspection, the shelves are filled with defaced books that have been torn up and scribbled in with raunchy messages and drawings by customers.
It’s all part of the interactive and playful nature of the bar, says project lead Brendan Spiro, who helped come up with the concept along with beverage director Jim Kearns.
I took a seat at a black marble table and upon ordering the Pareidolia, I was handed a description of the drink.
‘Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant,’ it explained.
A huge part of the cocktail’s appeal and intrigue is in its presentation; first the bartender placed a small black plate in front of me, with ridges in it meant to mimic the texture of human skin.
Then he slowly poured out a thick, white, creamy fluid of sake, rhum agricole and the Japanese fruit yuzu, which seeped into the craters on the plate and glowed somewhat disconcertingly under the blue light.
The four simple and erotic steps for drinking the cocktail, according to its instruction manual, were as follows: ‘1 – Pour cocktail onto plate. 2 – Lower head. 3 – Lick. 4 – Repeat.’
Brushing aside my self-consciousness – as well as my wish that I was wearing a ponytail – I held my hair back with one hand and dove face-first into the plate, gliding my tongue across its wrinkly surface.
Aside from the fact that the act of licking a plate feels animalistic, not to mention socially unacceptable, it also proved to be challenging feat; gravity is working against you, after all.
A few licks in, however, the embarrassment of the act slipped away as I developed a technique of curling my tongue upwards to keep the liquid from dribbling out, which is just as attractive as it sounds.
Nevertheless the drink itself was delicious, with a consistency akin to that of a smoothie, and I would have easily drunk it within just a few minutes if it weren’t so difficult to do so.
What’s more, it certainly achieved its aim of transporting me out of my comfort zone and making me unusually aware of the sensory experience of taste.
The Pareidolia and its unique presentation was designed by Dutch artist Bart Hess, who previously created Lady Gaga’s black slime costume for her Born This Way video.
While it is undoubtedly the most overtly sexual drink on offer, the rest of Play’s cocktail menu, as well as its food selection, is equally enticing to the senses.
The food menu is divided into three categories: Flirting, which consists of small bites and bar snacks, Fondling, a slight step up in sustenance and price, and F***ing, decadent meals like red curry beef and rabbit leg focaccia.
Feeling emboldened by my adventurousness thus far, I ordered a Fondling plate of sticky beef tongue chimichurri, served with cauliflower and the playful addition of gruyere, a truly tantalizing combination.
It’s the décor as well as the food that arouses the senses and evokes sexuality.
In the bathroom, two handles are built high onto the walls, seemingly inviting Red Room-type activities Christian Grey would endorse.
And on one wall, a screen plays a mesmerizing looped Bart Hess video of a tongue sucking caviar off of a surface.