Los Angeles’s resurgence as a premiere national and even international dining destination, one that’s drawn attention from the Michelin Guide, James Beard Awards Foundation, and even the World’s Fifty Best (though we still don’t have a place on the rankings), means that, inevitably, some mid-market dining gimmicks are going to join the fray, like the new video-enhanced dining experience going down at the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown LA these days. That’s not to say that video-projected animation played atop tables are a pure gimmick, just that it’s surely one that will raise some eyebrows and maybe delight some out-of-town visitors.
That’s right: One of Downtown LA’s best dining venues, the 24th floor of the tony Ritz-Carlton hotel, has swept away the elegant Asian menu designed by Wolfgang Puck and has replaced it with a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience called Le Petit Chef. Produced by a company called TableMation Studios (along with Skullmapping), it’s the sort of thing that cruise ship diners would probably enjoy — which turns out to be the case since Celebrity Cruises has already installed them onto 11 ships.
Beginning December 3, Le Petit Chef will start taking reservations for the $145 per person dinner (plus a mere $35 for the wine pairing), which is basically dinner and a show for a “mesmerizing culinary adventure” that takes place right on the table. It’s unclear if children, who are certainly a target audience of this dinner, will cost the same, but that would put a full price for a family of four of nearly $800 after drinks, tax, and tip. At least one thing cannot be changed: the former WP24’s fantastic, nearly unfettered views of Los Angeles from its high perch, though those take place out the windows instead of on the table.
The menu, designed by the Culinary Institute of America at Copia, includes tomato tart with burrata, chicken roulade, and beef filet. Yes, these are dishes more likely to be at a culinary school training class or a 1960s throwback than a modern bill of fare, but here they are, presented with animated things projected onto the table. The whole dinner has plenty of somewhat outlandish statements in its marketing, including calling itself “the world’s #1 dining experience” (Noma would like to contest that assertion), while the bottom of the company’s website boasts OpenTable’s Diner’s Choice for 2020 and also the Guinness World Records (why? We’re not really sure).
Just know that there are “state-of-the-art” laser 4K projectors placed above tables (don’t worry, you won’t know the projectors are there because they’re camouflaged!). There’s footage of people pretending to look astounded by the experience, with an uncredited quote saying, “one of the most memorable meals of my life!” There are promises of new TableMation dinners headed to Tampa, Hawaii, New York City, and Washington D.C. The company even says you eating here will be “social media gold,” with over a billion impressions of ordinary people filming their dinners across untold platforms. And the greatest, most unbelievable statement of them all is that the company proclaims this to be the “future of dining,” and that you won’t want to go to a “regular” restaurant again. Seriously.
Did Los Angeles really need an immersive dining experience at one of its most elevating evening locations? When did food, drink, and a nice ambience somehow fall short of making for a great dinner? TableMation seems to have figured out that computer animation is the thing that people have really wanted all along. And the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Downtown LA seems to agree.
Here’s a video of what to expect from the meal: