T+L Reports: Ocean Passage
Red-hot restaurants are notorious for having locations that are impossible to find, with inconspicuous signage, hidden entrances, even secret passwords. The Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa has gone a step further. Its aquarium-like dining space Ithaa (Rangali Island; 011-960/668-0629; dinner for two $400)—the name means pearl in the local language—is nestled 16 feet beneath the Indian Ocean in a multicolored coral reef. Across a wooden deck, at the bottom of an enclosed spiral staircase that leads to the ocean floor, 14 guests eat in the company of rays and sharks and schools of tropical fish that create a constantly changing scene beneath the arched acrylic walls and ceiling. If you're able to divert your attention from all the activity, focus on executive chef Ian Mancais's equally impressive menu, featuring chile-pickled ini (Maldivian lobster) in smoked tomato jelly, lime oil–drizzled yellowfin tuna tartare, and pineapple and candied-ginger chocolate fondue. Dive in—no wet suits or scuba gear required. —CLARK MITCHELL
One of the only underwater restaurants in the world, Ithaa is located 16 feet below sea level at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort. Accessed by way of an enclosed spiral staircase at the end of a jetty, the restaurant features an arched, transparent roof that provides 180-degree views of the surrounding marine life. The 14-seat interior is otherwise simply furnished with polished wooden tables and brown leather chairs, focusing attention on the fish, sharks, rays, and moray eels swimming overhead. The menu includes Asian-Western fusion dishes such as seared barrier reef fish with palm heart, apple, and fresh coconut.