Prehistoric eggs go down a treat

THE SUMMER silly season extends to Japan as well, and the latest fad to electrify Tokyo residents sweltering in the August heat is dinosaur cuisine. Feel like a Brontosaurus burger, or some Stegosaurus sausage? Perhaps washed down with a Pterodactyl daiquiri? Shizuo Inoue, who has just created the Dinosaur Buffet in Tokyo's Shin Takanawa Prince Hotel, is ready to oblige.

The Dinosaur Buffet is running in tandem with an exhibition of dinosaur fossils in another part of the hotel, and the staff say they are packed out every lunch time. The food, they hasten to explain, is freshly prepared every day from modern ingredients and made to look like dinosaur produce. The most popular items so far are the dinosaur eggs.

The Chinese have long been devotees of the 1,000-year-old egg, an ordinary hen's egg buried in the earth until its inside turns green and black. But it took Mr Inoue to come up with the 100 million-year-old egg, which is about 1ft long and can feed some 40 people.

In search of geological realism, the chef even consulted a professor of palaeontology at Tokyo University to get the dimensions right. He then devised a recipe using pumpkin for the egg yolk and a mixture of spinach and minced chicken for the albumen. The egg shell was more difficult - Mr Inoue finally decided on ostrich eggshell, which is cracked and pasted on to the outside of the saurian ovum.

The resulting creation is no three-and-a-half-minute egg - it takes three hours steaming before it is ready to eat. To accompany it there is dinosaur-shaped bread, and other Mesozoic side dishes. And all for 5,500 yen ( pounds 24).

Dinosaurs are popular in Japan - there are two separate dinosaur fossil exhibitions running in Tokyo this summer, both sponsored by television networks. The last big exhibition of dinosaurs, held two years ago in Chiba to the east of Tokyo, attracted 1.2 million visitors - approximately 1 per cent of the Japanese population. Maybe in the future some clever biogenetic reverse engineering will give us the first dinosaur zoo.

(Photograph omitted)