06 August 2011

Seafood or Seefood?


The world’s first all-glass underwater restaurant is Ithaa, or so claims the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, where Ithaa resides. That alone meets the definition of “once-in-a-lifetime,” at least until other eateries follow suit.

The restaurant, whose name means “Mother of Pearl,” is housed in a transparent acrylic tunnel-shaped enclosure, eerily reminiscent of the plans I recently wrote about to build the most expensive golf course ever (an estimated $500 million), with golfers traversing similar underwater tunnels from hole to hole, also in the Maldives (read here). Apparently, undersea acrylic tunnels are all the rage there. The big difference is that Ithaa actually exists. It’s about five years old, but you will likely still be the first on your block to eat there.

Sure, you will eat lunch or dinner at “just” 16 feet below sea level, but that does not minimize the incredible views, and it does eliminate problems associated with going deeper, like getting the bends or too much nitrogen in your bloodstream. Plus it’s still safe to have wine and cocktails at this relatively harmless depth!

You enter by walking into a thatched roof pavilion at the end of an otherwise innocuous but beautiful pier, and then descend a spiral staircase. Before you know it, you are the main feature in an aquarium designed to entertain the fish.

Not surprisingly, the specialty is seafood, lovingly prepared by French chef Nicolas Boutin, who offers a daily themed six course menu at dinner. It changes frequently, but the current menu includes a caviar starter (malossol oscietra caviar with sour cream and potato blinis), followed by raw yellowfin tuna with lime and sesame oils and crispy wonton; rock lobster with leeks etuvé, snow pea salad and sauvignon blanc cream sauce; pan fried duck foie gras with thai mango caramel jus; seared line-caught barrier reef fish with palm heart and fresh coconut and apple; a floating island egg white, passion fruit, and banana milkshake; and petit fours. Lunch is essentially a similar menu streamlined into a four course version.

The restaurant holds just 12 guests per meal, so reservations are highly suggested. It is also popular for private takeovers and special events like weddings. There is one seating for lunch (12:30), with children welcome, and one for dinner (6:30) over 16 only, and all guests dine at the same time.

Of course, such extravagance does not come cheap, but at $320 US per head, or $195 for lunch, both including a glass of champagne to celebrate the start of the memorable meal, it’s no more expensive than many comparable restaurants in Paris – and those sit above ground.

Info by Forbes.

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