10 Must-See Underwater Restaurants Around the World (Slideshow)
March 24, 2016
If you’re looking to dine on seafood near its source, these 10 underwater restaurants are about as close as you can get
Al Mahara, Dubai
The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is an ultra-luxurious, seven-star, sail-shaped hotel located on a manmade island in Dubai, so of course one of its restaurants, Al Mahara, is located underwater. The name translates to “the oyster shell” in Arabic, so expect seafood aplenty on the menu, including poached oysters in cucumber and apple broth, Alaskan king crab, and sea bass with jus piperade (there's also seared waygu beef for landlubbers). The restaurant also has an impressive wine list, winning a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2014. There are no overhead views, but the high walls are completely made of (very thick) glass, giving an aquarium-like experience as all sorts of sea life swims by. Hopefully they won’t recognize any friends on your plate.
Aquarium Restaurant, Various Locations
The Aquarium Restaurant currently has four locations: Nashville; Denver; Houston; and Kemah, Texas. Each, as expected, is located in its respective city’s aquarium, and each offers different-sized tanks for viewing. Both Denver and Kemah have 50,000 gallon centerpieces, which feature more than 100 species of tropical fish each, and a diver that makes two feedings per day in full view of diners. Houston’s aquarium is 150,000 gallons, and its highlights include rays, sawfish, and guitarfish. Nashville’s version boasts a whopping 200,000-gallon tank, and divers feed the fish twice a day here as well. The menu, however, is the same at each restaurant. Its seafood-heavy offerings include calamari, shrimp cocktail, lobster mac & cheese, a lobster tower, salads like the citrus ahi tuna or crabmeat and avocado, and a wide variety of fish entrées like snapper, trout, mahi mahi, tilapia, and salmon. For seafood-opposed diners, there are also burgers, cheesesteaks, fried chicken, and a number of other enticing options.
Atrium Bar, Berlin
The Atrium Bar at the Radisson Blue in Berlin gets on the list based on a technicality. Yes, it’s underwater, but not in the way you might think. Instead of being surrounded by wall-to-wall glass, there is a large, 25-meter-high cylindrical aquarium (called the “AquaDom”) that hovers directly over the bar and its patrons. Containing 264,172 gallons of water and more than 1,500 fish, the tank is the largest cylindrical aquarium in the world. You’re sure to find something to drink or snack on from the bar’s 22-page menu, including a variety of wine, spirits, imaginative cocktails, beer, and snacks like salads, soups, nachos, pizza, and burgers.
Cargo Hold Restaurant, Durban, South Africa
Located in the stern of the “Phantom Ship” at the 40-acre uShaka Marine World theme park in Durban, the Cargo Hold Restaurant offers fantastic views of the ocean and shark tank to guests while they are treated to prosciutto-wrapped Camembert and ostrich carpaccio appetizers; a number of succulent seafood platters; and such main courses as kingklip, duck, venison, and gnocchi. There’s also a nice selection of steaks and light desserts. The Cargo Hold offers a number of holiday-themed menus, and can be rented for wine pairings, parties, and other events — while delighted diners gaze across the ocean from the top deck, or into it from down below.
Forbes Island, San Francisco
Even getting to the Forbes Island restaurant is an adventure. Although the address is Pier 41 in San Francisco, guests actually need to go to Pier 39 to take the ominously-named Titanic water taxi to the island. Once there, visitors descend down a path and flight of stairs into the intimate dining room. Unlike most underwater restaurants that flaunt the location with enormous glass walls and ceilings, Forbes Island takes a different approach. Other than the fact that the interior is designed to look like a cozy ship galley, diners might not notice they are below sea level until they peer out of one of the small windows or feel the gentle rocking of the waves. There’s a four-course menu available for $75 that includes wild mushroom ragout; crab, avocado, and scallop salad; lamb lollipops; filet mignon; salmon; sole; and chocolate mousse for dessert — to name a few dishes. There’s also an impressive and diverse wine list.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in Maldives has several distinctions: It was the first undersea restaurant in the world when it opened in 2005, and it has been ranked by The Daily Meal as the most beautiful restaurant in the world, and also one of the most romantic restaurants, expensive restaurants, and hardest to get to restaurants. Located five meters below the surface in the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel, Ithaa features panoramic and overhead views of the surrounding coral gardens and sea life while diners feast on a seven-course meal of dishes like caviar, agnotti of duck, Maldivian lobster carpaccio, and beef tenderloin for dinner, or a four-course lunch option. Be prepared to splurge (lunch starts around $200 per person, dinner around $300), but also be prepared for the experience of a lifetime. In other words: Bring a camera. Even at night, the aquatic views are spectacular.
As if being an underwater restaurant wasn’t enticing enough, Ossiano at Atlantis the Palm was also named the Best Seafood Restaurant by TimeOut Dubai in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Offering views of the Ambassador Lagoon right from guest’s tables, the restaurant also offers five- and seven-course Mediterranean-influenced menus prepared daily with fresh, seasonal ingredients by award-winning chefs. There’s also a separate bar with seating, afternoon tea service and pastries from the British Isles every Saturday, live music regularly, and the option to get a diver to swim by your table and hold up a sign for special occasions. (Because what says “I love you” better than someone else doing all the work?)
Like Maldives’ other underwater restaurants, Sea (located at the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas resort) has not only having glass walls, but also a glass ceiling — almost completely surrounding guests as they dine in a breathtaking setting. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sea offers dishes like pan-seared Canadian scallops, poached lobster topped with asparagus and ham, waygu beef Wellington, pork belly in scallion sauce, and an assorted fish and seafood medley. In addition, Sea also has the world’s first underwater wine cellar, which helped earn the restaurant a slot on The World of Fine Wine’s “World’s Best Wine List” ranking in both 2014 and 2015, as well as a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Sharks Underwater Grill, Orlando
Of course Orlando needs to have an underwater restaurant, despite not being close to the ocean. But the city is king when it comes to tourist gimmicks and impressive eateries, so Sharks Underwater Grill made it work by opening at SeaWorld, where there’s always plenty of water and creatures to fill it with. The name is accurate too, as the restaurant is located near SeaWorld’s Shark Experience, and the scary beasts can be seen prowling for a meal as diners dig into their own. A recipient of the 2013 Silver Spoon Award from Orlando Life Magazine, Sharks offers shrimp cocktail, mussels, lobster bisque, and salads along with grilled mahi mahi or salmon, ahi tuna, an eight-ounce filet mignon, and a 14-ounce ribeye. There’s also a kid’s menu, but make sure your child didn’t make any new aquatic friends at the park before you order them the fish sticks.
Clearly Maldives is the perfect place for an underwater restaurant, because this is their third entry on the list! Six meters below the water is Subsix (makes sense), a restaurant that can only be reached via speedboat and a dramatic three-story staircase. The trip is worth it though, as guests are greeted by Italian chandeliers, a clamshell-shaped bar, soft anemone chairs, capiz shells suspended from the ceiling, and wall-to-wall windows. At Subsix, the views can be enjoyed all day and all night too, as the restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and later in the evening, it turns into a dance club complete with DJ. There’s plenty of seafood on the menu — crab, lobster, sea bass — as well as waygu beef. Subsix is located at Per Aquum’s Niyama hotel and resort.