As you enjoy your meal in a surrounding lit by gentle turquoise light, a shadow glides over your table and you look up to see a school of fishes gamboling past the screen. Across from you, a pair of vibrantly colored butterfly fish seems to be serenading each other, moving as gracefully through water like ballerinas on a stage. If nothing, simply the brilliance of the coral reef and its intriguing shapes and formations make for very interesting meal time conversation.
Dining at Ithaa, the first underwater restaurant in the world, is an experience that people would find hard to forget and get over. It’s the kind of story you can regale your social circle with time and again, ensuring that you take center stage in several future conversations for a long time to come.
Located 15 feet below the Indian Ocean, Ithaa (meaning “pearl” in Dhivehi) allows visitors to experience the marvel of the expansive marine life of Maldives without getting their feet wet. Although the meal itself can set you back by $300 or so, nobody has been heard complaining about the price at all. If anything, this exclusive interaction with the hitherto unseen underwater life through the 270 degrees panoramic view of the restaurant comes quite cheap.
Ithaa was built at tremendous cost ($5 million) and it was designed by New Zealand based design consultancy M.J. Murphy Ltd. The structure was, in fact, built in Singapore after which it was shipped to the island on a huge barge. It was lowered into its current position in the sea by a giant crane that was fitted in the barge. It opened its doors to the public in 2005.
If you, too, wish to be part of this amazing experience, you must make your reservations in advance. In some cases, it may be several months before your turn arrives, since Ithaa can seat only up to 14 people at a time. The restaurant is accessed by a wooden walkway from Sunset Grill Restaurant, an over water restaurant located nearby.
The menu is varied and a treat for any epicure. The food is a blend of both Maldivian as well as Western tastes, and there are international dishes as well for those who prefer to stick to things they know. The more adventurous people can try out items like cold dish of yellow fin tuna with lemon grass, citrus, and sumac dipping sauce; pumpkin soup with sour cream; king fish with katafi langoustines; or black Angus beef with truffles.
The dessert menu is just as varied with sinful delights like mascarpone infused with lemon grass espuma, macaroon stuffed with berries and sweet mangoes, chilled chocolate fig dariole, or lime and limoncello chiboust.
Personally speaking, at the end of the day you may forget about what you ate or drank at Ithaa but the dancing forms on the other side of the screen that enticed you and held your attention will stay with you forever.