TAKING GASTRONOMY to new heights — 50 meters high actually — is the Belgium-based company Dinner in the Sky (DITS), which has come to Manila for a two-month stint starting April 3. The dining experience will feature dishes from some of Solaire Resort and Casino’s restaurants as well as others prepared by Kenneth Cacho, formerly of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Tivoli restaurant, and Belgian celebrity chef Yves Mattagne.
With prices starting at P9,990 per person, Dinner in the Sky is an hour-long experience where a table seating 22 people is hoisted via crane up to 50 meters above the ground (though the height may vary due to weather conditions). Once up in the air, the chef and two assistants will commence serving a multi-course dinner while diners are treated to a beautiful view of Manila Bay and its sunset or the lights of the cityscape.
Because of the unique proposition, the experience was named as one of the world’s 10 “Unusual Restaurants” by Forbes in 2006 alongside English chef Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck (Heston is known for pioneering the use of liquid nitrogen in cuisine and his penchant for experimental cookery).
A Stefan Kerkhofs, who conceptualized Dinner in the Sky, explained to the media shortly after the grand Philippine launch on April 3, “I have an attraction company and we had a big platform and we would lift people 50 meters in the sky. Once, we were on this platform at a concert, and one of my friends said: ‘Hey Stefan, wouldn’t it be great if we can eat and drink here?’”
So, with his partner David Ghysels, Mr. Kerkhofs started Dinner in the Sky, a restaurant service which has been around for a dozen of years and which has toured over 60 countries.
Now it has come to Manila so Filipinos and tourists alike can get in on the excitement.
“Filipinos are some of the most fun people in Asia… this is the right target market for something like this,” said Arvin Randahwa, CEO of DITS Asia, during a press conference on March 21.
“It’s about time that Filipinos experience the best in the world in our own shores, for the Philippines to become a destination for culinary adventures and one-of-a-kind experiences. We deserve it,” said Rhiza Pascua, CEO of MMI Live (DITS Philippines’ organizer), in a company release.
DITS Philippines will have two services a day, a 5:30 p.m. service so one can see the famed Manila Bay sunset, and a 7 p.m. service perfect for viewing the metropolis’ multi-colored skyline. Menus will differ with each service and will be prepared by Waterside’s chef Hylton Le Roux (the restaurant specializes in South American cuisine), Finestra’s chef Alan Marchetti (Italian), Yakumi’s chef Norimasa Kosaka (Japanese), Mr. Cacho, and Mr. Mattagne.
UP, UP, AND AWAY
During the launch on April 3, select members of the media were able to take part in the experience and while there were quite a few who were apprehensive, most were excited to be eating while up in the air.
Mr. Kerkhofs assured the diners that one would not feel that the table is rising and we didn’t, but it was clear we were getting farther and farther from the ground. It was exhilarating, eating on a table hoisted by a crane but it was also nerve-wracking because there’s nothing to step on other than a footstool.
And the chair swivels and reclines, which added another layer of anxiety. Still, many of us were so taken with the experience and seeing the Manila Bay sunset that we initially forgot that we were there to actually have dinner.
We quickly realized that we could distract ourselves from our fears by digging into the food prepared — this time — by Mr. Le Roux and his team.
The four-course dinner started with Tuna Tiradito with aji Amarillo paste, lime-pickled red radish and cassava crunch before going on to the beautiful Anticuchos de pollo with tamarind habanero glaze, mojo verde, baby beetroot and crispy cancha corn. The chicken dish with the hint of spice cut by the sourness of the mojo verde (which uses sour cream) was delicious, while the baby beetroot added a hint of earthiness.
Two options were offered for the main course: Mexican Adobo-spiced Atlantic salmon, red quinoa, edamame, Huancaina cream, and chili corn salsa (Mr. Le Roux said the “adobo” spice used in this dish is different from the Filipino “adobo” as the former is a spice mixture with paprika, oregano, cumin alongside salt and pepper) and Cuban-style slow-cooked pork belly with Mojo sauce, agave roast baby carrots, and spicy refried beans.
This writer was served the pork dish and it was a considerable serving too. I enjoyed the pork belly which its chicharones crust and the agave roast baby carrots provided a sweetness that complemented the saltiness of the pork. But being Filipino, I was yearning for a cup of white rice and Mang Tomas sauce to complete the experience.
Dessert was a deconstructed Dulche de leche cheesecake dome with pralines. Mr. Le Roux said that they decided to have the diners plate their own desserts and served the components in shot glasses. “To get the creative juices flowing, and because we’re a bit lazy,” he laughingly said.
The dessert turned out to be the perfect ending to the hour-long dinner as people busied themselves either eating the entire thing without decorating it (as this writer most certainly did) or putting their backs into it and plating their desserts beautifully.
All in all, Dinner in the Sky is an experience that one should take if they are into extreme activities or are just looking for a different kind of dining experience, or, as Mr. Kerkhofs said: “this is perfect for those with a fear of heights.”
This writer definitely enjoyed it though there were nervous moments when the wind picked up and the entire table moved along with it.
Tickets to Dinner in the Sky are available at www.dinnerinthesky.ph. Diners are advised to be at the VIP lounge of the Solaire Resort and Casino an hour before the scheduled service. The experience is located at the Esplanade, Solaire Resort and Casino, Parañaque City. For people who want to customize or organize their own experience, contact email@example.com. — Zsarlene B. Chua