philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


I Ate at a Virtual Reality Restaurant and … It’s the Future?

Opened in July 2017, Tree by Naked is the wacky masterpiece of Muramatsu, a visual artist famous for his films and global installations, and eating there, you can tell an artist is at the helm, which perhaps set this concept apart. Fortunately, the food matches the visuals; the Tree by Naked experience comes with eight precise courses of seasonal Japanese cooking.

But once you're led downstairs (the upper level acts as a chic café during the day), darkness engulfs you, only to be abruptly disrupted by stunning, intricate shows of light that tell a story of birth and rebirth and love and life and loss and humanity and everything, as illustrated by the four seasons. There are two, eight-person seatings a night at the communal table, on which the colorful magic is projected. Even more magical? There is no need or space for small talk, as the VR is so entrancing. As a perpetual solo diner, this pleased me. Within moments of the show—and it feels like a show—I could relax, which is an option not always available at super-cool restaurants.

For one course, you wear virtual reality headsets as the seats around you become occupied by farm animals dressed in dapper human clothes as they eat meals beside you. (Don't worry, they're not real!) Plants grow in front of you. Birds chirp. You watch the seasons change. The visuals are transporting, and frustratingly hard to capture on your phone.

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