We all wonder what the next big thing will be in the world of culinary trends. From deconstructed everything to the tapas revolution, there's no end to the innovations chefs around the world are bringing to the table. Of course, many unique concepts taken to the restaurant stage fail miserably, while others become mythical wonders in the canon of lore attributed to culinary dining experiences. The leadership and vision of the creator is often the difference maker, as we'll see with this list of super exclusive establishments from around the world. From the hidden luxuries of tropical paradise to the stunning sensory stimulus of dining in pitch dark, exclusivity is being served up in these highly coveted culinary enterprises.
An intriguing realization is how exclusivity comes in many forms. It could be the limited number of seats, an extremely remote location, or simply an insane price per head that creates a sense of intrigue and allure–the mythology of the place, so to speak. From the depths of the Mediterranean Sea to the heights of volcanic mountain ranges, location can play a huge role in the creation of VIP-only reputations. Others prefer to toy with conceptual themes—from the extreme experience of dining dangling high above the L.A. skyline to the novelty of eating in a maximum-security prison cell, there's no end to the inventiveness attributed to the restaurants featured on this list. So, read along, and plan your bucket list around these must-try VIP dining experiences from around the world!
20 Ristorante Grotta Palazzese
Set in spectacular naturally formed caves carved out of the coastline of the historic Puglian town of Polignano a Mare, this luxury dining experience is certainly one for the bucket list! The extensive caverns surrounding guests exude an awe-inspiring contrast to the vastness of the open ocean below. Truly, Grotta Palazzese is a veritable Mediterranean feast for the eyes and stomach.
Enjoy the fresh salty spray of sea air as you feast on a traditional Puglian menu centered on a wide assortment of marinated vegetables and fresh handmade pastas that we can only dream about in North America. Don’t want the experience to end? In Spring 2019, Grotta Palazzase is set to open a new premier destination hotel with luxury suites overlooking Italy's rugged coastline.
19 Dubai's Arctic Dining Experience
There'll be no coat racks in sight at this next destination dining experience, as it's necessary to bundle up in the frigid atmosphere of Dubai’s most unique bar! An intriguing first in that territory, the Arctic Chill-Out Lounge is a gem that exists in stunning contrast to one of the aridest desert regions of the world.
Dubai's unique ice-themed lounge gives local residents a legitimate reason to go out and buy luxury snowsuits! And they mean business when it comes to the arctic theme. Decadent ice accoutrements add layer after layer of ice-cold luxury to your visit, complete with a solid ice bar, ice sculptures, seating, and tables cut from solid blocks. Even the glasses are formed from frozen H2O. The menu features an array of intriguing cocktails, sweets, and, of course, hot cocoa!
18 Dine Dangling in the Sky (LA)
Not for the faint of heart, Dinner in the Sky has been hailed as one of the world's most exclusive—and the most extreme—eateries. We're literally talking about a flying dinner table, and this isn’t a Disney fairytale! In 2006, a lucrative partnership formed between Hakuna Matata Communications and an amusement park developer, resulting in this one-of-a-kind mobile dining experience that has since traveled all over the world.
Experience the bottomless feeling of dangling hundreds of feet high in the air as you take in the 360-degree views of the urban landscape far below. The whimsical culinary venture also takes to the skies to make children’s dreams come true with an annual display of Santa in the Sky, complete with eight flying reindeer lit up in December only!
17 Sirocco (Bangkok)
The rooftop of the Lebua Resorts is the place to be in Bangkok, Thailand. Boasting 360-degree views of the urban mecca from the 4th largest building in Thailand, you’ll be instantly enamored by the elegance of the establishments the rooftop Dome has to offer.
Sirocco is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the opulence in the resort establishment, as it features mouth-watering Mediterranean fare including a wide assortment of oysters and caviar sourced from the South of France and Spain. While you're visiting, it's highly recommended to explore all that The Dome has to offer. Lebua Resorts has put together an impressive collection of award-winning dining experiences and bars, all offering their twists on unique regional fares and world-class cocktails.
16 5.8 Undersea Restaurant
This super exclusive dining experience in the Maldives will surely take your breath away! The 14 seats available in the marine-themed Undersea Restaurant are featured in the Hurawalhi Island Resort set on the enchanting private island of the Lhaviyani Atoll, which is actually a filled crater from a formerly active volcano. The Undersea restaurant is surrounded by local underwater wildlife and features the largest glass-enclosed dining area in the world.
Guests descend 5.8 meters below sea level to take their place next to some of the world’s most exotic and diverse array of sea life including leopard sharks, angelfish, and manta rays existing in the shallows of the Mediterranean. Enjoy specially prepared local-tasting bites as you take in the spectacular 360-degree view boasting crystal clear waters as far as the eye can see.
Established in 2003, Noma has been consecutively named "The Best Restaurant in the World" by Restaurant Magazine from 2010 to 2012 and again in 2014! A seasonal menu features local Scandinavian fare showcasing ingredients foraged from the sparse natural offerings of Denmark.
Founder and head chef Rene Redzepi made waves in the culinary world when he founded Noma, basing the menu around a committed relationship with biodynamic cultivators and also with the giving landscape rich with edible foods to forage for in one of the first examples of farm-to-table dining.
Chef Redzepi is so highly in tune with the natural offerings of the Copenhagen region that he designed three distinct menus to emphasize the diversity of the seasons under the categories Seafood, Vegetable, and Game & Forest menus. The result is a dramatic shift in the dishes offered to align with the peak season of each ingredient.
14 Dining in the Dark at Dans le Noir
Dining out should always be considered an experience, something that tantalizes the senses and opens your eyes to the beautiful possibilities of taste, aroma, and texture. At Dans Le Noir, guests experience all of the above with the added twist, as it's the only dining experience in the world where you eat in pitch black!
Indeed, the unique experience of dining at Dans Le Noir brings a new way to appreciate all the sensory delights food can bring us with seasonal menu changes every three months. Don't expect to be able to choose what you're going to consume for your dinner in the dark, as all three courses and even the sampler menu are entirely secret! Your senses work together as detectives at the dinner table, piecing together your very own mystery meal. We only wonder if there’s an answer key for after you’re finished!
13 El Diablo
Situated on top of the Montana Del Fuego on Spain's island of Lanzarote, El Diablo is certainly one of the most extreme dining experiences one will ever have the pleasure of indulging in. Enjoy panoramic views of the barren volcanic landscape as you await your volcanic-inspired meal that finishes with an explosive brownie lava cake should you desire it!
Originally designed in the 1970s by artistic visionary César Manrique, the site is located in the heart of Timanfaya National Park. Guests arrive at El Diablo after a leisurely drive through the park along a route defined by Manrique himself and that eloquently displays the power of the volcanic activity in the area. Highly recommended is any of the barbeque dishes freshly charred using a geothermal 400-degree grill generated by active volcanoes nearby!
Featuring only nine seats and two dinner services per night, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to dine at é. Created by José Ramón Andrés, é centers on the tapas concept of eating, a trend that Andrés himself is largely credited for bringing to the US culinary world.
Tucked away in a private room of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, the sleekly designed steel bar wraps around the chef’s preparation area. The experience is enriched by the plush velvet curtain background that further adds to the sense of performance Vegas is famous for. Guests observe as magical avant-garde-inspired bites are crafted before their very eyes, and with a whopping 15 courses, Chef Andrés guarantees you won't be walking away hungry in the City of Sin.
11 The Calico Cat Cafe
Normally, restaurants don't encourage their patrons to bring furry friends along for their dining experience. But at the Calico Cat Cafe, the cats are a permanent feature of this one-of-a-kind concept. Originally established as a way to house stray cats around the city, the Calico Cat Cafe soon realized the therapeutic nature of their feline residents, and before Tokyo knew it, there were Calico Cat Cafes popping up all over the city! Today, there are over 30 locations offering the combined service of coffee with a side of cat love. Next time you find yourself in Tokyo, locate a Calico Café and enjoy a cup of chai while you coax your preferred playmate with a complimentary bag of cat food!
10 MASA (NYC)
Master Sushi Chef Masa has created a highly sensitive, intuitive environment that artfully conveys a sense of tranquillity. The restaurant's interior highlights the seasonal changes offered by Mother Nature and exists in stark contrast to the hustle bustle of life in North America's most intimidating urban mecca.
The establishment truly represents an ethereal realm where "each dish is composed to ensure that the most basic, innate character of the ingredients persists" (masanyc.com). The world-renowned sushi chef is a master of creating beautiful experiences of comfort and ease, and the dress code is described as casual to reflect this.
Masa employs the aesthetic concept of Shibui, a theme that captures the uncomplicated beauty of life and exudes clean form, subdued tranquillity, and the refined essence of quality. Highly sought after by sushi lovers and foodies worldwide, Masa features a fixed-price sushi menu, and a date for two will run you around $1,200.
Schwa is defined by the myth of the man who created it. The story goes that Michael Carlson, a nobody at the time, had the ultimate chance to prove himself to his culinary idols one fateful evening in October of 2007. The meal went off splendidly, but it was only afterward that Carlson realized the sheer intensity of all the stress he had endured, and legend has it he took a three-day bender before closing the doors of Schwa forever… or, actually, for four months. Four long months of mourning endured in Chicago before Carlson announced his return.
Located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, Michael Carlson’s flagship restaurant features a BYOB policy, as there's nothing but food on the menu. The 26-seat dining room has no servers–Carlson delivers the food, bringing the creator and those enjoying the creations closer together.
8 Devil's Island Restaurant (China)
Ever wondered what dinner would taste like as an inmate?? Well, this restaurant is serving up a highly unique sentence by serving patrons their meal in a cell but only after receiving the full treatment of being a prisoner. Okay, they might not go as far as shaving your head along with a full cavity search, but you'll be expected to give your fingerprints and pose for a mugshot before sitting down to some real prison grub. Originally intended as a scare tactic, the reputation of Devil's Island Restaurant has far surpassed its original concept to become one of the world's most notorious eateries. They say just one meal will scare a person straight, for life!
7 El Celler De Can Roca
The three Roca brothers are making magic at El Celler, one of the most highly coveted dining experiences in all of Spain. A constellation of success, each Roca brother takes a prong in the esteemed culinary venture that was instilled into his blood through a long family culinary tradition. El Celler boasts an impressive collection of organic and biodynamic wines and a highly acclaimed menu that resulted in El Celler being hailed as the Best Restaurant of the Year in 2013 by Restaurant Magazine.
A must-try on the menu is also one of the longest standing dishes: the Lobster Parmentier with Black Trumpets, a true testament to the quality of cuisine that surpasses fleeting food trends. The highly coveted menu comes with an 11-month waiting list–a worthy delay for dedicated foodies!
6 Escape Reality at Soneva Kiri (Thailand)
Truly one of the world's most unique dining experience is found at the resort village founded by the Shivdasani family in 1995. The resort amenities, as well as the cuisine, take inspiration from the natural, untouched landscapes of the islands surrounding the luxury jungle escape.
Hailed by Gwenyth Paltrow as an unforgettable dining experience, restaurant Benz is found on the pristine island of Koh Kood. The 'no-menu' concept adhered to by Chef Benz takes inspiration from the abundance of ingredients found locally on Koh Kood and nearby Koh Chang islands, and all seafood is sourced from neighboring fishermen. Experience elevated bamboo tree-pod dining, or design your own personalized dining experience alongside Soneva’s executive chef. There seemingly exist no bounds to the hospitality this island paradise will provide for its guests!
5 Saffire Freycinet
A renowned Tasmanian resort is including a lifetime experience for true lovers of the sea. Complimentary packages to enjoy the natural beauty and tourist attractions of Tasmania include a thriving wine industry as well as the locally farmed seafood.
One package, in particular, takes guests to the pristine Pacific coastline to experience the seafood in its freshest possible form. Expert oyster farmers take guests on an educational dining experience set right in the home of the oysters themselves! You’ll find yourself strapping on waiters and submerging into the hopefully not-too-chilly waters of Freycinet Marine Oyster Farm, where you're encouraged to shuck your own oysters while listening to the wealth of wisdom these dedicated farmers have to share.
4 Talula's Table
Self-described as a Gourmet Market, Talula is located in the historic district of Pennsylvania. The farm-to-table concept located in the mushroom capital of the US employs a seasonal menu changed over every 4-6 weeks. An exclusive ten-course tasting menu features locally sourced ingredients available for purchase during the daytime hours of the market.
Only one table is served per evening, and only one reservation is taken daily for exactly one year in advance! Want to partake in the Chef’s Table? Don't hold your breath because it's exclusively invite only, and if you ever get invited, it’ll be about a four-month wait! Afterward, you might even have to go grab a Sonic burger on the way home, as the small bites are designed to showcase the ingredients and not to overstuff guests; however, Talula guarantees you'll have memories for years to come!
3 Club 33
Everyone's heard of Club 33, but few have entered the super exclusive dining room established by none other than Walt Disney himself. The club itself consists of VIP members who pay approximately $25,000-40,000 for initiation fees with an annual membership running about $12,000. Originally intended to be an exclusive gathering place of Walt Disney and his closest friends and colleagues, the opening of Club 33 was tragically delayed until 5 months after the theme park mogul died in 1966.
Even with the cash, you can’t expect to get through those secret doors anytime soon. Nope, you’ll be waiting a decade and a half before it's your turn to enjoy the exclusivity of Club 33, where you’ll no doubt be rubbing shoulders with stars like Bruce Willis and Matthew McConaughey, among many others.
2 Sukiyabashi Jiro
Hailed by Anthony Bourdain as the restaurant at which he would gladly enjoy his last meal, Sukiyabashi Jiro is inspired by the Edo tradition of food-stall style sushi bars, where customers casually grab bite-sized pieces of sushi brushed with soy sauce while washing the meal down with a glass of sake. The famed sushi house is located in an unassuming building and features a tiny ten-seat bar that offers up an intimate setting for the experience of a lifetime.
What's on the menu? At this moment, chef Jiro Ono is exclusively serving an Omakase Tasting Menu consisting of twenty custom hand-rolled sushi bites that change with the season, ensuring every experience at Sukiyabashi Jiro is different from the last. The cost of this unforgettable sushi experience runs 30,000 yen, or $264.50 USD, but the memory is guaranteed to last a lifetime.
1 Damon Baehrel's
Why would anyone wait a decade for a reservation? Damon Baehrel seems to have figured out the secret to becoming one of the most coveted and captivating establishments in New York’s entire food scene. Price per head runs about $4,000 for an ingenious culinary experience that foodies from all over the world have come to personally witness.
The menu is self-described as Native Harvest cuisine, and aside from the seafood and the meats, all of the ingredients are sourced from the 12-acre estate set into the charming hills of Earlton in New York State. The acreage serves as Baehrel’s home base where the renowned chef hand-prepares cheeses and cured meats as well as entertains guests in his private basement dining room. A man of many talents, Baehrel breaks with culinary conventions, acting as host, server, chef, cheese maker, forager, to name a few of his many roles.