I wasn't sure whether to egg Felix on, to pity him or to go and grab the sick bucket. He had just polished off his 9th hot dog and the crowd was urging for more. Felix didn't look well and the peer pressure wasn't helping.
What inspires someone to take up this genre of trial I can't decipher, but it makes for compelling if slightly disconcerting entertainment.
The Reservoir Hot Dogs Challenge is the third incarnation of the Essen Restaurants "Man versus Food" promotions. This follows on from the previous years' "Jurassic Pork" and "Schnitzilla".
The ground rules are simple. Chow down 13 hot dogs in 30 minutes, no leaving the table and no remnants littering the plate. Tough but fair.
The Hot Dog Challenge is actually a menu item and anyone visiting the Essen Restaurant has the opportunity to partake. Hitting the scales at 1.8 kilograms, if you manage to round off the pyramid of hot dogs, your $49.50 slate will be on the house. If not, you will need to unfurl the credit card and suffer the further indignity of being immortalised on the restaurant's Wall of Shame.
The upside of this blatant abuse of the 2nd deadly sin is that these hot dogs are sumptuous. Expat Dutch Geert Elzinga shows admirable respect for the purity of the ingredients that will destroy your pre-conceptions of a packet frankfurter on a plastic bun. The freshest of rolls enclose Geert's handmade weisswurst, kranski, cheese kranski (my personal favourite) and bratwurst. Dress up your dog with all the spicy condiments including tongue-tickling pickled vegetables. Siphon that down with any one of a raft of German tap brews and wallow in the wonderful synergy that can exist between food and beverage.
The menu of course caters more for the client whose palate runs deeper than hot dogs. Everything reads faithful to the restaurant's Northern European themes with a few twists. Try the slow-cooked lamb ribs. They are plated-up with a white bean cherry tomato salad. While a little more liberal on the fat content than beef ribs, you could eat them with a spoon. Hey, start the diet tomorrow. Traditional German desserts such as strudels and Black Forest cake look to have been lifted straight from the windows of a Bavarian bakery.
Not that Felix or any of the other brave participants were in the mood for strudel. In fact, the mere mention of any dessert may just have sent them scurrying for the bathroom.
Tim came in a close second with 8. He doesn't look too happy about it.
Did any of them wipe the plate clean? Negative. In fact not even close. Felix was the champ with a commendable 9 but 13 was a mountain too far, particularly for petite Shireen. Colour me confused, but at 40 kilograms ringing wet, what was she thinking? At least the contestants had the rest of the detached audience entertained with plenty of laughs at their gluttonous misfortune.
It was an engaging, if unorthodox night out for one and all. Hats off to Essen Restaurant and WASA Media for organising the event. If you find yourself in Ultimo then do yourself a favour and call in. If you are up for the challenge, by all means roll up the sleeves, loosen the belt and dig in. My advice though is to balance the optimism with some pragmatism and stick to the traditional side of the menu. The food is an exceptional example of North Europe cuisine and the price tags won't leave you extending the home loan.
I think these people are mad for taking on such a challenge. It wouldn't be so bad if the food wasn't so unhealthy. I wish for once, one of these restaurants would hold a vegetable eating challenges; at least there would be some benefit to the food your scoffing.
At the same time, I must admit, it is quite a fun form of entertainment, and if people want to torture themselves, why should we stop them?