Gourmets in Space!

tasty January 11, 2018 01:00

By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
THE NATION

2,077 Viewed

Dinner in the Sky entails a lush feast aboard a bottomless platform high above a Bangkok park. Don't drop your cutlery



A FLYING DINING table is Bangkok’s newest fad in eating out, with Thailand becoming the second Southeast Asian country after Malaysia to have banquets hoisted aloft for Dinner in the Sky.

A shimmering of celebrities were out for opening night last week as the Belgian dining concept found its home in Thailand, next to Benchasiri Park and the Emporium mall.

Strapped into their plush chairs, the guests – along with the chefs, the cooking gear and the table itself – were lifted 50 metres into the air.

By the end of the experience, the consensus was that the food is wonderful, but some people won’t find the height conducive to enjoying their meals to the fullest. Both the altitude and the safety belts left some diners feeling uncomfortable.

The idea of aerial feasting was born 12 years ago when two Belgian firms – one involved in fine dining and the other in the hydraulic needs of amusement parks – pooled their talents. Dinner in the Sky is now being enjoyed in 45 countries.

DITS Asia, the Emporium Group and Uber Thailand are collaborating on Dinner in the Sky Thailand, which deploys a 200-tonne German telescopic boom crane from TSK Diamond to hoist the seven-by-five-metre table, 22 guests, the chef, two waiters and two security experts into space.

The security people are there to make everyone feel secure, of course. They’re in constant communication with the crane operator and ground crew. Diners still have to sign a form acknowledging there’s a risk, and they also have to leave all possessions except phones and cameras back on earth in lockers.

Take note that the toilets are way down on terra firma too.

As soon as I got buckled into the belts securing my back, shoulders and waist, I felt too constrained. I immediately wanted to stretch out and breathe deeply. The seat tilts forward and backward and swivels left and right, but still feels confined.

Looking down, I realised there was no glass platform at my feet as I’d thought – only a small footrest and empty space. The breeze was already swirling around my ankles. 

 Once everyone was strapped in, we were slowly lifted into the air, my heart pounding while I tried to not look down. A fellow reporter admitted to sweaty palms. 

Fifty metres is the height of a 12-storey building. Getting there took us five minutes. The platform remained horizontally motionless until the chef and waiters went to work, and then swayed slightly.

Every seat affords a 360-degree view of the surroundings, so there was plenty to look at besides the food.

Friso Poldervaart of Dinner in the Sky Thailand got involved after sampling the experience in Malaysia and finding it amazing. He knew Bangkok foodies would get a kick out of it too. 

“People here are always on the lookout for something new and extraordinary, and both Thais and foreigners have been very enthusiastic about Dinner in the Sky Thailand,” he said. “Tickets are selling fast – we’re already 60-per-cent booked right through February, with two ‘flights’ per day, the Sunset session at 6pm and City Lights at 7.30.”

 His colleague, Johannes Bergstrom, stressed that the experience is completely safe. 

“Dinner in the Sky was designed according to Germany’s DIN 4112 safety standard for flying structures and surpasses the world-leading German TUV-accredited standards,” he said. 

“There have been zero accidents in 10 years of operations in 45 countries. Dinner in the Sky is professionally handled and has been tested and re-tested to guarantee the diners’ safety at all times.”

Gaetano Palumbo, the award-winning executive chef at the Sheraton Grande 

 Sukhumvit, does the cooking aloft – a terrific four-course gourmet feast. He quipped that he’s used to this because he’s created in-flight menus for airlines before. 

“The life of a chef is to always be doing something different,” he said. “Right now I’m one of the sky chefs, and preparing the meals is quite challenging because of the limited space and time.” 

(It’s not exactly a leisurely event – Dinner in the Sky comes back in for a landing after one hour.)

“But we know from the bookings everyone’s menu choices in advance, so we can finalise the arrangements right before go up,” Palumbo said. 

He doesn’t get a chance to be afraid of the height because he’s concentrating on the cooking and the guests. “You always look straight ahead, not down. Of course, because it’s all open, we have to be careful not to drop any forks or spoons or anything.”

The menu is billed as five-star and is indeed exemplary, if not quite as good as the meals served at the hotel. 

For the appetiser there’s a choice between Angus Beef Carpaccio or Carpaccio of watermelon that’s been roasted for nine hours, along with healthy salad and foamy soup made with Parmesan. 

Next comes Tomato Gazpacho Chilli Soup, crab meat and cucumber. 

 The main-course choices are Pan-fried butterfish with saffron potatoes, asparagus, cherry tomato and beetroot reduction; Braised Australian Short-rib Beef with barbecue sauce and roasted vegetables; or Roast New Zealand Lamb Loin with hazelnuts, baby turnips and purple potato puree. 

Dessert is Passion-fruit Mascarpone Cream Cheese Cake with raspberry coulis and green-tea ice cream.

Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat was present for the launch but declined to fly. TV host Vutthithorn “Woody” Milinthachinda was a keen astronaut, however, and said he was very impressed with the meal. 

“The food was great, but I’m not sure if I really enjoyed eating it – I felt rather frightened due to the height. The view was certainly amazing, except I wanted to plug my ears because Kalamare kept screaming!” he laughed, referring to fellow TV personality Patcharasri “Kalamare” Benjamas, who admitted she was terrified. 

“I’m really afraid of heights and didn’t dare eat because I didn’t want to move at all. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my palms were sweating. I only came along because all my friends were trying it.”

Actress Thikamporn “Cheer” Ritta-apinan, on the other hand, adored the ride and the food and called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience that no one should miss. 

“The meal was delicious, but the height might get on your nerves. The views from up in the air were fantastic though,” she said.

  UP YOU GO

- Dinner in the Sky Thailand costs Bt4,990 on weekdays and Bt5,390 on weekends.

- Book seats at www.DinnerInTheSky.co.th and specify whether you want the Sunset session at 6pm or the City Lights session at 7.30pm.