Got the Dinner Ho-hums? Try One of These 5 Cool Dining Experiences

By: Jennifer Walker-Journey  | 
unique dining
Master chef Angélique Schmeinck of CuliAir Skydining whips up a fabulous dinner in the gondola of a hot air balloon. Maarten Reeders/CuliAir Skydining

Some people crave adventure and excitement. Others enjoy an exquisite meal. But some restaurants and chefs have combined the two to create an experience designed to appeal to both adventurers and epicureans alike. Curious to give one a try? Here are five of the world's most interesting dining experiences, listed in no particular order, but served up to whet the most venturesome appetites.

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1. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant

Like the idea of dining by the sea? How about a table underneath the waves? Book a seat at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort in the Maldives. Billed as the world's first undersea restaurant, this venue serves lunch and dinner more than 16 feet (5 meters) below the ocean's surface. Diners access the restaurant by descending a spiral staircase at the end of a pier before entering the glass tube dining area, which seats 14.

Once seated, guests enjoy a meal of Western-influenced local flavors blended under a curved glass roof with panoramic coral garden views as vibrant fish species, sting rays and reef sharks circle above. The menu changes often, but you can expect features such as pan-fried duck foie gras, rock lobster, seared line-caught barrier reef fish and a passion fruit and finger banana milkshake.

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While Ithaa is open for lunch and dinner, both the views and the price tag are more appetizing during the daylight hours.

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You can dine with a view of the reef and share a table with the fish at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in the Maldives.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort

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2. CuliAir Hot Air Balloon Sky Dining

Want to take your dining experience to new heights? Climb aboard the world's only hot air balloon restaurant, CuliAir. Take in the view of the Dutch lowlands as one of the only two female master chefs in the Netherlands prepares your meal within the belly of the balloon.

That's right, hot air balloons act like enormous convection ovens with temperatures rising to about 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). This allows for a low-and-slow cooking technique that CuliAir chef Angélique Schmeinck says helps develop the aroma and preserve juices in the fish and meat dishes she serves aboard the lighter-than-air aircraft.

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These culinary ballooning voyages are dependent on laws of thermodynamics and weather. So, they can only be done during the hours of sunrise and sunset, when there are no rising or descending thermal currents in the air. Ideal weather conditions are clear skies and low wind conditions. So, if there are heavy winds, poor visibility, developing thunderstorms, low cloud cover or temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), be prepared to postpone your plans.

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Masterchef Angélique Schmeinck uses the convection-like properties of the hot air balloon to prepare culinary masterpieces that come with an incredible view.
CuliAir Skydining

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3. Dinner in the Sky

When it comes to a dining adventure, the sky is no longer the limit. Dinner in the Sky is the crazy brainchild of two Belgium-based companies — Hakuna Matata, a communications agency specializing in gourmet pleasures, and The Fungroup, a firm focused on amusement park installations. The two market fine dining events on large dining tables that are hoisted into the air by enormous cranes.

Launched in 2006, the dining experience has tallied more than 5,000 events in 60 countries throughout Europe as well as Australia, Japan, India, Dubai, South Africa, Brazil, China, the United States, Mexico and Canada.

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Want more than a sky-high dining experience? The company also offers other creative concepts such as a Beach Bar in the Sky, Opera in the Sky, an Internet Café in the Sky and a PokerMatch in the Sky.

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4. The Taste of Snow & Ice Experience

Looking for something more down to earth? Welcome to the Taste of Snow & Ice Experience, a chilly dining event in the heart of the Artic sea. Begin your meal with appetizers by the frozen seawater tables inside SnowExperience365 at the stunning SnowCastle Resort in Kemi, Finland. Enjoy the remainder of your five-course meal in the warmth of the Seaview Restaurant Lumihiutale, surrounded by views of the Finnish Lapland.

Dishes are made from seasonal ingredients from the region's forests, fields and waters and include offerings such as parsnip soup, braised beef brisket and arctic berry crumble. The changing light of the seasons also provides appetizing sky views from your seat at the dinner table, from the summer midnight sun to the starlit sky of the polar night. If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

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5. Dining in the Dark

More interested in the taste of the food rather than the view? Dining in the Dark has got you covered. The concept is based on research which shows that 80 percent of people "eat with their eyes." In other words, the appearance of food greatly impacts how it is perceived.

Developers of the Dining in the Dark experience theorized that if you could eliminate sight from the other senses — specifically taste and smell — then your dining experience could be elevated to an even greater level of enjoyment.

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Dining in the Dark dinners are held in candlelit venues in major cities across the United States — including Atlanta, Dallas and Seattle — as well as in Europe and Australia. Guests do not know what dishes they will be served beyond choosing a vegan, seafood or meat menu. Before the meal is served, diners must don blindfolds so they remain completely in the dark throughout the entire two-hour experience. It's a literal feast for the senses, except, of course, the sense of sight.

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