A similar dining experience from TableMation, Le Petit Chef, has made appearances worldwide, including in Detroit and Los Angeles. The Austin stint brings the TableMation show to Texas for the first time with a new script where two chefs go on a food adventure, paired with dishes from the hotel restaurant.
Here’s what to know about the experience:
It’s a four-course dinner paired with a projected show
The rough storyline of Nya & Ned Save the World is that two chefs fight an evil force, but quite honestly it is better to focus on having fun than to expect an Oscar-level cinematic experience. The meat-heavy fixed menu — tuna tartare, citrus-marinated sea bass, steak and raviolo, and a trio of desserts — corresponds with elements of the storyline. For example, when garlic gets roasted by a fire-breathing dragon in the animation, a real roasted garlic aioli appears in the next course. This gives Ciclo’s chefs quite a bit more freedom with the menu than TableMation’s previous story, Le Petit Chef, where a tiny chef creates a plate of food that then must be served exactly as projected.
While this menu is not breaking any new culinary ground, my companion and I thought it was well-prepared and quite filling. Though there’s nary a vegetable on the current set menu, a vegetarian option is coming soon.
Dinner reservations for Animación at Ciclo are $195, which does not include tips or parking (although the price includes a welcome cocktail). Wine pairings are an additional $95, bringing the total to over $300 per person, and putting the dinner on par with some of Austin’s priciest prix fixes (or, as another Eater editor pointed out, a one- to two-Michelin star restaurant). For example, the classic omakase and sake pairing at trendy South Congress Hotel restaurant Otoko would cost $370 per person (without tip), and the 13-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings at downtown live-fire restaurant Hestia would be $345.
It’s also worth noting that the Los Angeles version of this dinner, which was at the Ritz Carlton in the downtown neighborhood, was $145 for four courses with $35 wine pairings when it opened in December 2021.
A lot of work has gone into the dinner
TableMation claims that every five seconds of animation took 24 hours to create. Additionally, the Four Seasons had to custom-outfit Ciclo’s private dining room to the exact measurements of the projections and create a unique table topper that optimized the video quality.
That said, the animation doesn’t start until after the first course. And until then, the pristine white table in a windowless room with a TV on the wall definitely feels like eating in a conference room.
All that said, it’s pretty fun
As we left the dinner, my friend, who has accompanied me to quite a few food events, proclaimed this one of the most memorable ones she has attended. The animations are intricate and delightful, the food is expertly prepared, and it’s definitely a different kind of dining experience. I left the dinner quite charmed, although it’s not an experience I need to repeat, and given the price point, I’m not exactly sure who the target audience would be.
...And, already reservations are selling out
Animación at Ciclo is available on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7 p.m. for a maximum of 12 people. As of publishing, it is currently booked through mid-March.