At these quirky restaurants, people come for the atmosphere and stay for the food.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant—Rangali Island, MaldivesNo need to waterproof your cell phone to take photos in here. Located at the Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island Resort is a gorgeous and intimate underwater restaurant (seating capacity is 14 people) that is more than sixteen feet below sea level. Opened in 2005, the all-glass restaurant has a menu consisting of fresh seafood, beef rib eye, veal, and other gourmet dishes. Encased in a transparent acrylic roof, the restaurant offers its diners a 270-degree panoramic view of sea creatures swimming in the Maldives’ crystal clear waters. While a zinc paint coating protects Ithaa’s steel structure from corrosion, the saltwater and marine growths adhering to the paint will eventually break it down. Make a reservation while you still can.Ninja New York—New York City, USA
In a review in the New York Times, Frank Bruni describes Ninja New York as “a kooky, dreary subterranean labyrinth… You are greeted there by servers in black costumes who ceaselessly bow, regularly yelp and ever so occasionally tumble.” But don’t worry, you won’t need to defend yourself with your own kung fu moves. You’ll dine amongst stealthy warriors—the waiters—who roam, romp, and perform tricks, all the while serving sushi and sake. Designed to look like a 15th-century Japanese feudal village full of dark nooks and snaking passageways, just call it Japanese fare mixed with martial arts flair at its best.Dinner in the Sky—Montreal, Canada Got an appetite for high altitude? And no, we’re not talking about chowing down right before skydiving, although it should be on your bucket list. Originating in Belgium, the concept for this novelty-based mobile restaurant involves a crane hoisting guests, who are securely strapped into “dining chairs” 160 feet up in the air, along with a table, wait staff, and everything that’s required to enjoy a meal floating above the ground. Dinner in the Sky has gained popularity worldwide and is now offered for limited run periods in cities around the globe, including Montreal.
Redwoods Treehouse—Warkworth, New Zealand You already know about the magnificent sites in the Redwood National and State Parks in California, but the trees near Warkworth are famous for an entirely different reason. It’s called Redwoods Treehouse. Built in 2008, the pod-shaped structure is situated over 32 feet above the ground in a Redwood tree in the town of Warkworth, north of Auckland. Diners access the venue via an elevated treetop walkway built of redwood milled on site. The striking venue is used exclusively for private functions and events, with a capacity of 30 guests.Cat Café Nekorobi—Tokyo, JapanIf watching cat videos gets you in a good mood, this unusual coffee shop will make you swoon with joy and cuteness. Nekorobi is a hip cat café located in the entertainment district of Ikebukuro where you can spend time with friends of the feline kind. Patrons enter through modern glass doors into a dimly lit joint where cats prowl and sprawl out, and where a drinks dispenser vending machine offers a variety of hot and cold beverages including coffee, royal milk tea, green tea, and instant miso soup. Visit in the evening and you’ll have a chance to witness the dinnertime ritual where the kitties feast on cat food in glass food bowls arranged in a circle around a floor lamp. For feline lovers, this place is no doubt the “cat’s meow.”Safe House—Milwaukee, Wisconsin This Midwestern U.S. restaurant has a rather nondescript exterior, but that seems to be the precisely the point, just like the secret locations in your favorite spy thriller. Everything related to the spy-themed restaurant is based on the CIA definition of a safe house, which is meant to be a seemingly innocent premise where an intelligence organization would conduct its covert operations in relative security. Nowhere will you find a sign advertising “Safe House”, and you even need to know the password to enter the establishment. If you ever find yourself in Milwaukee, this top-secret restaurant is worth seeking out; though remember, you didn’t hear it from us.
Modern Toilet—Taipei City, Taiwan Province, ChinaThis is the only place where dining etiquette and bathroom etiquette are one and the same. The idea for this odd restaurant was conceived by one of the owners while he was reading while sitting—where else?—on a toilet. Initially it only sold chocolate ice cream in containers shaped like a squat toilet, but once the humorous spin became a great success, a full-fledged, bathroom-themed eatery emerged. Today, Modern Toilet is a chain with locations across Asia and it has plans for further expansion. If the idea piques your curiosity, drop in to have a seat at one of the (non-working) toilets where meals are served in toilet bowl-shaped dinnerware.
De Kas—Amsterdam, The NetherlandsAnyone who owns a garden knows that nothing compares to making a meal with fresh produce you’ve grown yourself. Imagine a restaurant where the menu selections are prepared using the freshest possible ingredients, and by freshest, we mean harvested in the field at sunrise of the same day you are dining there. Welcome to De Kas, an old greenhouse in Amsterdam that was due to be demolished in 2001, but was saved by an ambitious Michelin star chef, Gert Jan Hageman, who converted the unique twenty six foot high glass building into a restaurant and nursery. Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown and harvested at the greenhouse and garden near the restaurant, and Hageman can be found in De Kas’ nursery daily, working the soil, planting, weeding and harvesting herbs and vegetables.
The Bubble Room—Captiva Island, FloridaOpened in 1979, this eclectic restaurant decorated with classic toys from the 1930s and 1940s started as a small one-room eatery, and today has grown into a multi-themed restaurant occupying all three stories of the house it originated in. Staff are known as “bubble scouts,” each wearing a different crazy hat. Moving trains are on all three floors and photographs of old-time movie scenes and stars adorn every available wall space. “It’s always Christmas at the Bubble Room” is a theme made evident by the presence of the many Father Christmases, the Elf Room, and year-round Christmas lights. Music from the 1920s to 1940s serves as the soundtrack for The Bubble Room, and the bright and cheerful pastel colors of the venue make it a near-hallucinatory experience. Favorites on the current menu are original items offered since the restaurant’s early days such as Socra cheese (a cheese served flamed tableside), Bubble Bread, and many of the colossal-sized desserts.
O.NOIR—Toronto, CanadaThis novel experience certainly puts a new spin on the term “blind date,” though it may not be able to help awkward silences. Dining in the dark has been around for quite some time abroad, but the concept was only first introduced in Canada in 2006, with the opening of O.NOIR in Montreal and then a second location in Toronto in 2009. O.NOIR’s philosophy is that a diner’s enjoyment is amplified when his sight is eliminated as the other senses become heightened. Flashlights, cellphones, and luminous watches are prohibited from the dark dining establishment. The evening starts in a lit bar where guests place their orders; then they are led by a server into an unlit dining room, where a two-hour seated dinner service begins with servers explaining where everything is placed on the table.