Ithaa Undersea Restaurant Lures Diners
Technicolor swirls of fish drift by as you sip a champagne cocktail. Mushroom-like rays and other intriguing species of reef fauna flutter past your shoulder. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, 15 feet below the Indian Ocean’s waves, offers ever-changing waterscapes for diners.
“Our guests always comment on being blown away by the color, clarity, and beauty of the underwater world in the Maldives,” said Carsten Schieck, general manager of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, “so it seemed the perfect idea to build a restaurant where diners can experience fine cuisine and take time to enjoy the views – without ever getting their feet wet.”
Designers employed aquarium technology to create this magical place encased in see-through acrylic, which cost about $5 million (USD). Submerged between the resort’s coral reef and lagoon, Ithaa translates to “pearl” in the Maldivian language of Divehi. The restaurant opened April 15, 2005.
“We wanted to create something different, something completely unique in the world,” said Patrick Manthe, the resort’s food and beverage manager. “The food had to be outstanding in order to compete with the underwater views outside the window.”
Three months of experimentation went into perfecting a menu that showcases contemporary fusion-Maldivian cuisine. Utilizing local spices, seasonings and traditional cooking techniques, the culinary team puts a western spin on Ithaa’s creations.
Diners choose a main course like pan-fried Maldivian white fish with fennel sauce and crispy curry leaves or char-grilled wagyu beef rib-eye steak with foie gras and rosemary veal jus. You can also sample a set menu featuring 23 different dishes (several in bite-sized portions) over four courses.
You can anticipate such items as roasted Maldivian pumpkin soup with sour cream and Beluga caviar; lobster enhanced by fresh mustard seeds and curry leaves; quail breast with smoked chili; yellowfin tuna in a pepper-herb crust; and scallop and reef fish carpaccio with passion fruit coulis.
For desserts: how about chocolate fondant with flamed banana and chili oil and warm frangipani milk with watermelon jelly and crystallized petals? Ithaa’s after-dinner chocolates, dipped in rose water, required more than 200 tests to perfect.
Courses are paired with wines from the Champagne house Louis Roederer. During its first year, Ithaa’s staff popped 4,200 bottles of champagne.
Diners can soak up the varied flavors of Maldivian cuisine and feast on the beauty of a unique marine experience – no scuba gear required. Previous travelers describe their visits to Ithaa as an exquisite experience with guest-book affirmations in many languages.
Because Ithaa drew so many diners, the resort added a lunch seating (and don’t forget your sunglasses). For this meal, the staff serves a four-course Mediterranean-style menu with salad, soup, meat or fish, fruit medley and homemade sorbet.
Besides winning the ‘Best Innovative Concept Outside Of Lodging’ prize in France’s Worldwide Hospitality Awards, Ithaa played a starring role in the resort’s being twice selected ‘Best Hotel Worldwide’ by UK Sunday Times Travel Magazine readers.
“We are very proud of the awards we have won, because it’s the feedback from the people who have dined in Ithaa that means the most to us,” said Schieck.
Add Conrad Maldives Rangali Island to your travel agenda. Whether you arrive via cruise ship, seaplane from Male International Airport, or yacht, a unique dining experience awaits at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant.
One of the six-star resort’s seven restaurants, Ithaa seats only a dozen guests, and everyone dines at the same time. The staff recommends allowing about two weeks for a table at dinner. Also, Ithaa can be booked for private events.
For more information, visit www.conradhotelsandresorts.com