My biggest fear was accidentally dropping a fork. Fine, I was a little nervous about the height too, after all, it isn’t every day that one dines 150 feet in the air.
But, as I stared at the crane that would lift our 22-seater table, I had a more pressing concern: I needed to pee, fast. I headed inside Solaire for my bathroom break. Tip number one: hit the restroom before you fly. Nope, there will be no peeing in the sky.
Here’s what happens when you check into the lounge for Dinner in the Sky. You sign a waiver (of course there’s one), you get a wristband, and you wait to board. (If you booked a business class or first class seat, you get champagne and wine while waiting.)
Tip number two: don’t be late. You don’t want to be left behind.
“Oh, seat number 12. That’s a good seat. You get a great view,” I was told.
We filed towards Solaire Resort and Casino’s Esplanade and stopped by the tent to leave our stuff in the lockers. Tip number three: just bring what is absolutely necessary. In my case: my phone, my camera and three little Fuchiko dolls.
One by one, we were called to our seats. A safety officer strapped me in, at one point asking me to lift my arms so he can secure the six-point seatbelt. “All right, you’re ready to go,” he said. “Enjoy your meal.”
Stefan Kerkhofs, who created Dinner in the Sky with his partner David Ghysels 12 years ago in Belgium, welcomed us with great energy. He doubled as our host and DJ at dinner.
Our chef for the evening was Hylton Le Roux, who runs Waterside at Solaire. Chefs Patricia Jimena and Kevin Patricio were assisting him at dinner. Patricia reassured us, “I have a fear of heights but this is really not scary.”
Chef Hylton explained that we were going to enjoy dinner with Latin flavors. The chefs uncovered our plates, revealing our first course: tuna tiradito with aji Amarillo paste, lime pickled red radish and cassava crunch.
We started digging in before the crane started hoisting us up. Being absolutely terrified of roller coasters (“I don’t have a fear of heights, I have a fear of movement,” I like telling people), I was dreading that moment. But MMI Live CEO Rhiza Pascua, who is responsible for bringing the experience to Manila with her husband Angelo, had said that you wouldn’t feel the platform going up. She was right. It was such a smooth ride that I didn’t realize we were already up in the air. I didn’t feel dizzy at all.
The tuna taradito was delightfully spicy. I washed it down with the mango juice that came with the meal.
Juicy and flavorful
Chef Hylton explained each course as it was served. Our second course was anticuchos de pollo with tamarind habanero glaze, mojo verde, baby beetroot and crispy cancha corn. “Anticucho is almost like pork barbecue, meat on a stick. Classically, when they make anticucho in Peru, they use pork but I decided not to use pork. I know, right, sayang?” Chef Hylton said, his surprising use of Tagalog making everyone laugh. “Instead, we used chicken.”
The chicken anticucho was juicy and flavorful. I swirled each piece in the mojo verde sauce before popping it into my mouth.
The food was great but there will be times when you will be torn between eating and taking pictures. “I keep forgetting to eat,” said the guy beside me.
Stefan and the chefs also play photographers, willingly using guests’ phones to take multiple shots with the incredible backdrop.
Another tip: take all the photos you want but maybe post on social media later. You have all the time in the world to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But you only have one hour to enjoy Dinner in the Sky. Relish the experience as much as you could.
There are two seatings each day and I was part of the earlier one which started at 5:30. I thought it was perfect because we got to see the sunset from our table in the sky and then enjoy the city lights afterwards.
I swiveled my chair, letting my feet dangle in the air. Even looking down, I felt no nervousness. That’s how comfortable, safe and secure my seat felt.
“You can recline, you know,” Stefan told us. I tried. But because my seatbelt was so secure (a really good thing!), I could only recline a few inches.
It was a joy to watch the chefs busy in their little kitchen in front of us. It was surreal too. I kept thinking, is this really happening? Are people really preparing a meal for me 50 meters off the ground?
For the main course, we had a choice between Mexican adobo spice Atlantic salmon with red quinoa, edamame, huancaina cream and chili corn salsa or the Cuban style slow cooked pork belly, mojo sauce, agave roast baby carrots and spicy refried beans. (There’s a vegetarian meal available too, of course.)
I picked the pork and really enjoyed it. It was tender and the symphony of flavors—sweet, salty, spicy—sang in my mouth.
It was a little windy and the platform moved with the wind. Again, not in a dizzying way. I really don’t know how they did it but the machinery was designed so well that I felt as secure as I would on solid ground.
At this point, the sun had gone down and the city lights sparkled. It was such a magnificent view. Stefan started playing music, James Newton Howard’s Rebel Remix of “The Hanging Tree” featuring Jennifer Lawrence. “This is such a great song, I love this song,” he said.
And then later on, he started playing a medley of ‘70s disco hits that included “Le Freak.” Our Dinner in the Sky was starting to feel more like a party in the sky.
It was time for dessert. Chef Hylton said, “We give you all your ingredients for your own dessert and you can plate it. I will go round and I will look which one’s the best and the winner will get a high five… Go to town, enjoy.”
They set wooden trays in front of us which held a beautiful dulce de leche cheesecake dome, shot glasses full of delicious treats like caramel popcorn, meringue, crunchy chocolate balls and little tubes of chocolate sauce and dulce de leche cream.
Everyone really got into it, concentrating on plating the best dessert possible. I thought it was brilliant. At that point, whatever nervousness anyone had had worn off. We were having too much fun playing with our food. And dessert wasn’t just fun, it was delicious too.
Chef Hylton spotted my little Fuchikos sitting on my dessert. “That’s high-five material right there,” he said.
I was still stuffing my face with the cheesecake when the crane started lowering the platform. Once again, I didn’t even feel it. And when I realized we were getting closer to the ground, I actually felt sad. “Not yet!” I wanted to shout. But my mouth was too full of chocolate.
We applauded the chefs for a great dinner. And it really was.
On our way out, we ran into people who were about to begin their dinner. “How was it?” they kept asking.
“It was so good!” we kept saying. “So much fun! You’re gonna love it!”
Sure, the tickets aren’t cheap. But the unique experience felt completely worth it. In fact, I might just do it again. Maybe with a different chef.
I got high with Dinner in the Sky. And I didn’t even drop a fork.
For more information, visit www.dinnerinthesky.ph.