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Destinations

'Pearls' underwater in Maldives, uptown in Harlem

Email|Print| Text size + By Alison Arnett
Globe Correspondent / October 9, 2005

Dine with the fishesWe've eaten on the tops of high buildings. We've dined in grotto-like basements. We've eaten al fresco, in restaurant kitchens, in wine cellars. But an underwater restaurant that features going eye-to-eye with tropical fish and barracudas -- now that's unusual. The Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa opened its tiny restaurant (it seats 12 diners) in April. Ithaa, meaning ''pearl" in the local Dhivehi language, offers spectacular underwater views of colorful fish, sharks, and other sealife in the surrounding coral reefs through curved, transparent acrylic walls. The cuisine is called contemporary Maldivian fusion, and executive chef Ian Mancais presents a 28-dish set menu in four courses. Guests start above water for drinks on a deck over the Indian Ocean, then descend to the restaurant (16 feet underwater) by a spiral staircase. Cost of the meal ranges from $187 to $220. The restaurant is part of a $5 million renovation of the resort, which includes six other restaurants, 100 new villas, and a full spa.

Call 011-960-668-0629 or visit www.hilton.com/worldwideresorts.

Monroe stirring things upAnother ''Pearl" and a more traditional water view will be the focus of Earl Monroe's Restaurant in Harlem. Owned by Earl ''the Pearl" Monroe, the former New York Knicks basketball great and Hall of Famer, and John Lowy, the restaurant is in Riverbank State Park overlooking the Hudson and across it to the Palisades. Chef Christopher Faulkner plans a new Harlem cuisine, with elements of Southern black, African, Caribbean, and Hispanic flavors and with an emphasis on seafood. Although the restaurant will offer valet parking and hopes to attract diners from all over the metropolitan area, the partners plan a community-friendly approach; entrees will range from $15 to about $25. Along with 125 seats inside, a long patio with a full river view will seat 150 in good weather, Lowy said. A jazz club (''The Pearl," of course) is planned on weekend nights. Lowy and Monroe, who has an R&B label and lives in Harlem, hope to open this month.

Riverside Drive at 145th Street; 212-491-1500; www.earlmonroes.com.

Epcot's calling all epicuresIf a trip to Walt Disney World is your children's dream vacation, you might throw in a little food culture to round out the days of rides and Mickey sightings. Epcot is celebrating its 10th annual International Food & Wine Festival in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., now through Nov. 13. Highlights include a beekeeping exhibit that features see-through observation hives to watch thousands of honeybees at work; meeting a peanut farmer and testing your knowledge of goobers; and a scale that tells your weight in tortillas. For adults, there are Australian wine exhibits and tastings, an exploration of the great beers of the world, and sips of Oktoberfest beer shipped in from Munich. Some events require special fees for dinners and tastings.

Call 407-939-3378 or visit www.disneyworld.com/food.

Stars line up for BermudaIf you like the look of pink sand with your exquisite cuisine, the Bermuda Culinary Arts Festival is offering up a star-studded event Oct. 21-23. Some of the participating chefs are Todd English of Olives and many other restaurants; Anthony Bourdain, chef at large for Les Halles Brasseries and author of ''Kitchen Confidential"; Pino Maffeo of Restaurant L in Boston; and Rick Tramonto of TRU in Chicago. Events include a fish chowder competition by home cooks, a tour of an organic farm, wine seminars, dinners at restaurants, and receptions at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Prices range from as little as $15 for a farm tour to $699 for a three-day festival pass; special hotel-festival packages are also available.

Call 800-237-6832 (800-BER-MUDA) or visit www.bermudaculinaryarts.com.

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