For foodie fans of sci-fi, anytime someone sits down to eat on screen is always doubly exciting. Not only do you get the chance to watch people enjoy something tasty, which is always way more satisfying than it has any right to be, but the food has the added benefit of being completely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. I, for instance, spent way too much of my childhood wondering what Yoda’s weird stew from The Empire Strikes Back might taste like. The only thing that’s changed is that I now have a much longer list of made up food I’d like to try.
The flip side of all the extra excitement is that, in most cases, you never stand a chance of finding out whether the food in question is actually any good. As much as I might wish it, there’s no danger of Frank Oz whipping up a snake soup in my kitchen any time soon. However, for hungry science fiction devotees, there is one new opening that is dedicated to serving food that looks like it belongs on another planet.
The Nakamura.ke Mobile Kitchen might, at first glance, look like any other of the dozens of popular ramen shops that have recently opened in Atlanta, Georgia. The menu is a mixture of Japanese classics, all served with a nod to their southeastern surroundings. However, one look at the few photos that have been released to the public makes it clear that this is an altogether different kind of restaurant.
Everything on offer, from the drinks to dessert, has been made with one key objective: to make them glow in the dark. Using bioluminescent ingredients - a mixture of quinine and natural food colouring - designer Ami Sueki has created “a totally immersive dining experience” that is as much about theatrics and storytelling as it is about flavour. The collaboration, which brings together designers and chefs from across America, London and Japan, certainly promises an alien experience unlike any other eatery in Atlanta. The result is food that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Avatar.
On the restaurant’s new website, alongside bizarre and at times disturbingly surreal imagery, Sueki writes that the restaurant is the physical manifestation of a dream she had several years ago and her attempt to tell the story of a mythical family of yōkai spirits - which she refers to as “the Nakamuras”. In Japanese folklore, these spirits operated their own ramen shop, serving dinner to the lost souls that have been left wondering the earth. Nakamura.ke’s “glowing noodles” have been created in homage to this legendary Japanese story and to Sueki’s own experience.
The restaurant plans to serve small groups of guests a selection of different dishes that tell the story of the Nakamura’s through food, accompanied by live performances from staff. The slots will last for 30 minutes, and will include cocktails, small plates and, of course, ramen. The price has been set at $75 per head. Opening on January 30th in two separate locations, the first few dates have have already sold out.
While it would be easy to dismiss glow-in-the-dark food as a gimmick, one look at what’s available is enough to leave a lasting impression. Softly glowing soba noodles look like the tendrils of a mad space octopus, whilst cocktails leave you feeling like you’re about to drink the contents of a nuclear reactor. Strange though it may be, it is certainly a unique way to build a menu.
Though Nakamura.ke is currently only open in Atlanta, it’s clear that management feel confident about their new glowing business model. Sueki has already stated that she intends to bring the pop-up to Los Angeles, London, Miami, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, and Dubai over the coming months. We might have to wait a little longer, but it looks as though film fans around the world might yet be able to realise their dreams of eating like an alien.