This Pop-Up Dinner Feels Like Dining Under the Sea
Think 'Beyond Van Gogh' but with sharks, dinner, and cocktails
“Shark! There’s a shark behind you!” is what many diners playfully said during the second course of the Hidden Worlds immersive pop-up dinner.
The dinner, held at the Rudolf Budja Gallery in Miami Beach, costs $250 and is a multi-course eco-friendly dinner with a twist — it uses similar technology used at popular immersive art exhibits like Beyond Van Gogh and Beyond Monet to give the guests the feeling of dining by (and under) the sea without getting their Gucci sneakers wet.
The pop-up has been designed in cooperation with Philippe and Ashlan Cousteau, grandchildren of famed oceanic explorer Jacques Cousteau, along with Hidden Worlds CEO Daniel Hettwer. The menu is created by Miami-based chef, Scott Linquist, who was tasked with preparing multiple courses considered “ocean positive,” meaning that each item must have less than zero impact on the earth’s waterways.
“We’re trying to work in items like purple urchin, which is overpopulated, and eating up the kelp forest,” says Hettwer.
Throughout the two-hour experience, diners are transported to different seascapes from Florida’s mangroves, where manatees gently glide by to a coral reef to a fantasy scape of bubbles and glowing jellyfish. One of the most impactful moments is when the coral reef — teeming with fish — dies. The room turns to shades of gray and one lone sea turtle can be seen swimming amongst plastic bottles and bags.
Daniel Hettwer, at first, wanted animals to be more stylized, but his team insisted they look more photoreal. The result is a blend of lifelike creatures mixed in with some whimsical scenes — like a wall of bubbles — and those monarch butterflies, pictured above.
“I didn’t think what they did was possible and they surprised me,” says Hettwer. He admits his favorites from the production are the manatees and the manta rays.
The seafood-centric meal (there is also a vegan option) is accompanied by cocktails created by Gio Guitterez, including a glittering version of the Vesper called the Pearl Diver (recipe below). Throughout the evening, diners are gently reminded of the impact we all have on the earth.
Hettwer is also working with volunteers whose neurochemistry is measured to study their empathy. “Were working with heart rate algorithms to see whether or not there’s an increased engagement in conservation. “We’re striving to be the first on the planet to scientifically prove that a piece of art or entertainment can help with empathy,” he says.
Hettwer has bigger plans for Hidden Worlds. After the Miami Beach run, he’s looking for a permanent space for the experiential dinner, along with touring the dinner — possibly in Las Vegas or Orlando.
“There are a lot of beautiful places. I’m looking at various options,” he says, “and I would like to earn a Michelin star for it.”
1 oz Grey Goose Vodka
3 oz Hendricks Neptunia Gin
.5 oz Martini Rossi Bianco Vermouth
Stir and serve up. Garnish with edible glitter.