Adventurous foodies: Meet the next addition to your global gastronomic bucket list. Have you ever visited an aquarium with a walk-through tank? At the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, dinner takes place within one of these tunnels in a clear, arched hallway five meters (or around 16 feet) below the surface of the Indian Ocean. The word "ithaa" translates to "mother of pearl" in the local Maldivian Dhivehi language -- a nod to the restaurant's unique position as a pearl in the ocean.
It's the world's first undersea restaurant, and, in addition to being a one-of-a-kind dining establishment, Ithaa's building is also technically the largest aquarium tunnel in the world. Ithaa first opened in 2005, but the restaurant was actually built off-site in 2004 and transported via barge to the Maldives over the course of a 16-day voyage. Today, it sits atop an underground wine cellar packed with roughly 20,000 bottles of 1,400 different labels and a dedicated cheese bar. To enter Ithaa, guests must traverse down a spiral staircase beneath a thatched-roofed hut.
As diners sit beneath the glass ceiling and walls, sea life swims in crystal clear waters overhead. The dining room offers a 270-degree panoramic view of the surrounding coral reef and accommodates just 14 diners at a time. (Reservations are necessary, ostensibly well in advance.) This high-class, high-exclusivity establishment has a high price tag to match. According to reviews from former guests on Tripadvisor, dinner runs in the ballpark of $400+ per person, or $200+ per person for lunch.
Seafood-Centric Menu In Topical Digs
Dinner at the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is six courses long, with set menus featuring contemporary fusion fare and a fine wine to match each course. European and Asian influences marry local flavors and have a special focus on seafood. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ithaa preserves an element of mystery around its menu, creating further intrigue by not providing the public with a specific list of meals offered. But, the restaurant's Instagram account does tease a few must-try dishes.
To start, guests can expect small plates like artichoke and roasted garlic velouté with caviar, five-spiced foam, and toasted brioche, or a more understated white peach salad with sliced Maldivian dried tuna. The kitchen pulls out all the stops for the main event, crafting entrées like a whole lobster gratinated with saffron and Espelette chili hollandaise, served with smoked avocado mash, corn tiles, and beetroot tortellini. For dessert, it's elevated fare like honey-roasted pumpkin cheesecake with almond milk and thyme gel and honeycomb foam.
According to reviews from past guests on Tripadvisor, Ithaa offers vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free options. One review also mentions that the chef personally introduces each course to the dining room. Ithaa is open for lunch, dinner, and mid-morning cocktails for an unforgettable under-the-sea brunch. For optimal ocean views, swing by while the sun is still out. A meal at Ithaa is at least as much about the experience as the food itself -- and for food tourists looking to sip Dom Pérignon next to a shark, look no further than this Maldivian pearl.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.