We Tried the Immersive 3D Dinner at Four Seasons Austin to See What All the Buzz is About
The hotel’s restaurant CICLO TEAMS UP WITH LEADING ANIMATION COMPANY TO FORGE THE CITY’S FOOD AND TECHNOLOGY CULTURE WITH A NEW DIGITAL DINING EXPERIENCE
By Cynthia J. Drake
Photos courtesy of Four Seasons Austin
Always on the hunt for the next big thing to elevate Austin dining to new levels, the Four Seasons has turned to animation with its 3D immersive dining experience, called Animación at Ciclo. In a true merger between luxury, gastronomy and technology, the experience is breaking boundaries with Austin diners.
In partnership with animation company TableMation (which has created similar experiences for other restaurants around the U.S., in addition to Celebrity Cruises), the dinner and a show, called “Nya and Ned Save the World,” takes place in an intimate dining room, where the animation plays out in miniature as virtual entremets across the blank white table in between each of the four courses.
After a much-hyped opening of this concept in Los Angeles, the experience is only offered in three luxury hotels around the United States, including Austin, Texas, Half Moon Bay, California and Napa, California.
The ticketed dinners first became available in February with much acclaim. Each seating is for up to 12 guests, with a $198 ticket price per person and an optional $95 for wine pairing with four courses and we set out to see what the buzz is all about.
We started out the experience with a warm greeting from Ciclo’s Sommelier Joe Pena, who offered a complimentary cocktail while our group got acquainted. We then made our way to the private dining room, one long 12-seat table in a small windowless room, and found our seats.
Curated by Ciclo Chef and Restaurateur, Richard Sandoval, the first course, a wheel of tuna tartare with delicate slices of cucumber and edible flowers plus crispy rice crackers with a swirl of mint puree was paired with a Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Champagne, served while we continued to chat and get to know the other guests.
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A short animation, introducing main characters Nya and Ned, two miniature chefs that hop and skip across your plate with the aid of projectors, along with the evil Dr. Animator, gave us a preview of what was in store. Though we won’t give away spoilers, the whimsical storyline loosely tracks the chefs’ mission to share their cooking secrets with the world while various bad guys attempt to stop them in somewhat humorous ways.
Our advice: bring your sense of humor and let the cuisine bring the story to life. The animation plays a supporting role to the inventive food and elevated service you might expect from Ciclo.
As opposed to TableMation’s earlier show, “Le Petit Chef,” in which the animated story directly ties into specific dishes, this iteration “allows for each restaurant to kind of customize it and make it a little bit different. That way you can experience it more than once,” said Courtney Griffin, Four Seasons Austin’s director of public relations. “And of course, you won’t leave hungry.”
It’s true. A second course of citrus-marinated sea bass shares a plate with thin slices of mushroom in a rich ponzu butter sauce, paired with chablis. The team of servers are quick to top off wines, with Pena on hand to answer questions.
A steak ravioli (raclette cheese and smoked beef tucked inside the pasta pillow, in a creamy beurre blanc with black truffle) offers another hearty main dish, with all the flavors of each course skewing more rich and decadent as opposed to lighter fare. (If anything, we kind of missed a vegetable or two).
After an epic animated battle reached its zenith, we all toasted the conclusion of our meal adventure with a scrumptious arrangement of bite-sized desserts: orange creme caramel, hazelnut petit gateau, and coffee profiterole, paired with two digestifs that cut through the dense chocolatey goodness with notes of citrus and nuttiness.
It was a triumph only a non-animated chef could pull off.
To book this experience for yourself, visit OpenTable.
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