By Thúy Hằng
Visual mappings are traditionally thought of as large video displays on buildings at major events with huge crowds. Belgium-based company Skullmapping, however, has demonstrated that small scale visual mappings for a smaller group of people can be equally impressive, when unveiling Le Petit Chef an entertaining 3D “mini-mapping” projection concept.
When Le Petit Chef was brought to Việt Nam and was presented at a hotel in HCM City last year, I was fascinated by the table-top adventure using this high-tech trick-of-the-eye, and hoped that one day I could have the chance to enjoy the experience.
Luckily, my wish came true recently, when the table projection concept arrived in Hà Nội for the first time and I was among the first 22 guests at a special dinner called Magica.
Excited and curious, we stepped into a dark room where we could make out almost nothing. A few seconds later, as our eyes became accustomed to the darkness, and with help from the light on our smartphones, we finally found our table.
As soon as all of the guests had sat down, the show began. After a 3D mapping of scenes from a jungle, with waterfalls, animals, bird song and butterflies, just about everyone in the room gasped “Wow”. No one could hide their excitement at seeing such scenes. I felt like I was in the Oscar-winning animation The Lion King.
Unlike Le Petit Chef, which tells the story of a small animated chef who is projected onto diners’ plates and proceeds to “cook” their food, Magica takes diners on a journey to an enchanted world filled with vivid colours. We enjoyed a carpet of flowers blooming right on our table.
The projection show takes place not only on the table but also on the surrounding walls, magnifying the experience for every single guest.
Everyone was engrossed in taking photos and no one realised that hors d’oeuvre had been served. The restaurant manager stopped at every table to talk about the food.
The small savoury dish, “Ceviche of Red Snapper with avocado, lime, tomato, and tortilla chips”, was nice and fresh. The slices of fish were cured by the lime juice, and still featured a little sourness from the fruit.
While the mapping show continued with another incredible display of a small fairy floating around our table, waitresses served the second appetiser — a plate of mango salad, phở cuốn (fresh rice rolls) with crab meat, and chạo tôm (sugarcane shrimp). Each was served in a “tasting size”.
The salad featured slices of mango and carrot that harmonised the sweet and sour flavour of a typical Vietnamese salad. The sugarcane shrimp was quite good, with shrimp paste covering the sugarcane and absorbing its natural sweetness.
The fresh roll was less tasty than other items on the plate. The wrap was much thicker than normal and I actually had to remove it. It also felt the rolls were served without dipping sauce, which is a must for Vietnamese fresh rolls. Without a sauce, these rolls are always tasteless. I’m not sure if the chef forgot to drop some dipping sauce on the rolls or if the amount was so small it didn’t change the taste.
But concerns over tasteless rolls soon disappeared as the show went on, keeping every guest busy taking photos.
The third course was Nha Trang Bird’s Nest Pumpkin Soup, which was quite good. The mild-flavoured soup was velvety smooth and creamy, and most importantly for me, not too sweet (this can happen if there is too much pumpkin). Though it was hard to see any bird’s nest in the soup, I didn’t mind because overall it met my expectations.
Our table was then quickly “transformed” into a theatre for an opera singer. When the performance was over, the main course arrived — Grilled Wagyu Beef with sweet potato mash. The beef was tender (of course, it’s Wagyu!). But unlike my preference of medium-rare, my steak was served well-done. It had no colour, and its texture was quite dry. The red wine sauce on the plate disappeared quite quickly as it had to take more “responsibility”, not only adding flavour but also some moisture.
Like its name, the last course, the dessert ‘Magical Strawberry Ice Cream with Chocolate Mousse Crumble’ is remarkable. Together with the visual effect created by the 3D mapping show, the dessert has brought ‘wow’ factor to the table when a cloud of smoke hovering around the dish creating an additional dramatic visual effect.
The dessert is very nice as the cold ice cream is in harmony with the chocolate mousse crumble. And the crumble is not too sweet. The only matter is that the portion is quite big that I couldn’t finish it. VNS