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The Wildest and Weirdest Restaurants in the World (And Hong Kong’s Floating Restaurant Sinks)

Hong Kong's Floating Restaurant Sinks Into South China Sea

On the first day of summer, the world lost one of its iconic restaurants.

Hong Kong’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant sank as the 260-foot, three-story restaurant was being towed out of Aberdeen Harbor on June 21. Luckily, no one was injured in the incident.

Hong Kong's former Jumbo Floating Restaurant
Nick Stenning

Opening first in 1976, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant had been a Hong Kong mainstay for nearly five decades. The giant floating foodery hosted visitors from across the world, including famous figures like Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, and even Queen Elizabeth II. Operating such a behemoth led the Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprise venture to bleed money. COVID-19 restrictions finally shut its doors for good.

With the Hong Kong government declining to turn the restaurant into a theme park, Aberdeen planned to move the ship into storage. Before it could complete the journey, Jumbo tipped and went down into a harbor that is more than 3,280 feet deep.

This tragic news should remind people that the world’s wildest eateries aren’t always going to be open. Here are a few of the weirdest restaurants for you to catch before disaster might strike.

Ithaa Undersea (Maldives)

Restaurante bajo el mar, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. A cinco metros bajo el mar, se localiza este restaurante de cocina europea. Este lugar sorprende a sus clientes con las vistas de 180 grados de los jardines de coral del Océano Índico, en las Islas Maldivas. pic.twitter.com/7mMVwE7Eni

— Curiotweet (@Curiotweet1) April 7, 2022

This list might as well begin under the sea, as that’s where we left off. Located inside (and under) the Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island Resort, the Ithaa (which translates to Mother of Pearl) is an intimate restaurant more than 16 feet below the Indian Ocean’s surface. Opened in 2005, the all-glass eatery features a daily set menu with items like prawn tartare, lobster pasta, spicy snails, and other daily catches along with fresh-cut meats paired with fine wine. You’ll just have to ignore the jealous looks from the dolphins above.

A zinc paint coating protects Ithaa’s steel structure from corroding, but this will only last so long in salt water. Reserve a seat while you still can.

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Chicago Sweatlodge (Illinois)

Speaking of salt water, visitors may not want to actually eat here, although the Chicago Sweatlodge as the full-serve sauna sounds pretty scrumptious.

In Chicago, Illinois, Eastern Europe still has quite the footprint, as this old-world steam room spa can attest. Home to a Russian sauna room and an inviting plunge pool, male-only Chicago Sweatlodge patrons can grab a seat at a checkered table after lathering up. Clad only in a towel, you can order up marinated herring, potatoes, and cheddar pierogies while catching the latest televised football (soccer) matches with your sweaty, bare-chested Old World mates.

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The Labassin Waterfall Restaurant (San Pablo City, Philippines)

labassin-waterfall-restaurant-philippines pic.twitter.com/dNuAqWuC

— Manila Viewpoint (@massagemanila) November 30, 2012

The pink palace that fronts the Villa Escudero resort plantation in the Philippines is just a hint of the vast plantation that it sits on. Set in owner Don Placido Escudero and wife Dona Claudia Marasigan’s former estate, the couple oversaw the country’s first working hydroelectric plant to energize a desiccated coconut plant. Now Labassin Falls (meaning “getting falls,” in Tagalog) spills off Labassin Dam and crashes into a no-shoes restaurant.

Feel free to rest bare feet and covered behinds to your heart’s desire in the crystal water. A Kamayan-style buffet of fish, barbecued chicken, bananas and fresh fruit, rice, and more lay out in a banana-leaved spread. A refreshing dip is always a nice post-feast eye-opener.

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Chillout (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

مقهى شيل اوت Chillout
مقهى مصنوع بالكامل من الثلج بما في ذلك الطاولات والمقاعد
❄درجة الحرارة ثابتة عند -6°
يقدم مجموعة من الملابس الثقيلة في الداخل
💵80 درهم لكبار 60 للاطفال مجانا اقل من 5 سنوات
📍تايم سكوير مول
⏰10 صباحاً حتى 10:00 مساءً

043418121
📍 https://t.co/O7giSY20bV pic.twitter.com/KK9V5L1eVi

— سعوديون في الإمارات (@saudi_n_dubai) July 6, 2022

Post roast in the Arabian sun, travelers will likely be tempted by dinner in an icebox. Luckily, in Dubai, if there’s a good commercial idea, someone is probably taking advantage.

Enter Chillout, a sub-zero ice lounge where burned legs can rest in solid ice seats and red arms can lean on crystallized water tables. Don’t worry about getting too cold, as Chillout hands out parkas, wool gloves, socks, and boots upon arrival (no word on how often the socks are cleaned). Diners can lean back like they’re relaxing in a refrigerator during summertime, sipping a Bloody Mary and snacking on a soup and sandwich to reenergize in this crazy restaurant.

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Redwoods Treehouse (Warkworth, New Zealand)

The Yellow Treehouse Restaurant, in Auckland,New Zealand by Pacific Environments Architects, is built 10m above a towering redwood forest! pic.twitter.com/VqiMRjpmii

— Arch Journal (@ArchJournal) January 26, 2017

Travelers more prone to air than land or sea used to be able to find escape in alien trees in the Kiwi state. Unfortunately, aerialists and pursuitists will have to wait until Omicron lockdowns ease in New Zealand.

First commissioned by the Yellow Pages telephone directory as a marketing campaign, the Auckland-based firm Pacific Environment Architects made such an impressive treehouse restaurant that it became a permanent commercial attraction. Located near Warkworth, north of Auckland, New Zealand, the Redwoods Treehouse looks like the beginning of an Ewok village perched 33 feet above the ground among the world’s tallest trees.

Built from redwood milled on-site, the pod-shaped structure is even accessed by treehouse tech — a canopy walkway walled by branches. Hopefully, Redwood’s chefs and servers can return to their homes beneath the leaves soon.

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De Kas (Amsterdam)

Ace Amsterdam eatery this: De Kas Restaurant pic.twitter.com/Xzqm3ldI72

— Lee Brackstone (@leebrackstone) September 12, 2018

Michelin star chef Ger Jan Hageman’s vision for De Kas began with saving an old greenhouse that was due for demolition in 2001. Why tear down the tree when you can rebuild Eden?

Hageman converted the 26-foot tall glass structure not only into a nursery, but into a restaurant, placing tables under clear panels and next to blooming beds. It’s 20 years later and paradise has returned. Diners eat next to and enjoy fresh-picked and just-imagined meals from Chef Hageman and friends Wim de Beer and Jos Timmer.

De Kas is a bit further afield than typical tourist destinations, but the magic is more than worth the trek. With its utterly flat topography, water abundance, and temperate climate, there are few cities in the world with a history that is as closely entwined with the botanical world as Amsterdam. De Kas brings diners into the midst of that world, even situated in the suburban Park Frankendael — one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque green spaces.

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The Rock Restaurant (Zanzibar)

Standing in the water fronting Zanzibar’s Michanwi Pingwe’s white sand beach in clear, warm, aqua blue water, The Rock offers the ultimate romantic dinner — if you can get there. Situated on a huge rock in the water, The Rock can only be reached by walking, swimming, or a canoe. This made the logistics of bringing over electricity, gas, fresh water, sanitation, Wi-Fi, and waste management a challenge, but now the eatery is proud to contribute only a minimal environmental impact on the region while making a serious dent in its diners.

The Rock specializes in always fresh seafood, accompanied by imported wines, ocean breezes, and crashing tides. The daily catch comes from what used to be subsistence fishermen who support The Rock’s local village and community, Michamvi, with this bounty.

Sometimes referred to as the floating restaurant (now the only one since Hong Kong’s has returned to the sea), The Rock is an elusive, exclusive dining opportunity in an exotic outpost.

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One of the easiest ways to connect with people in a foreign land is through food. And some of the best restaurants around the world are those that can bring tradition and the natural condition from the past into the present, and arrange it on a plate.

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