iChina to debut Silicon Valley's 1st virtual reality dining room, no VR headset needed

Some visuals are interpretive. Others are literal, like the aquatic scene that plays while being served a seafood course.

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Saturday, February 26, 2022
Silicon Valley's 1st virtual reality dining room is coming soon
iChina restaurant at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose is set to open Silicon Valley's first virtual reality (VR) dining room in April.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- High-tech for your taste buds! iChina restaurant at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose is set to open Silicon Valley's first virtual reality (VR) dining room in April.

When customers book the private space, they're in for a ten-course meal and high-tech experience.

No virtual reality headsets needed here. However, in the true sense of VR, people will dine in a customized computer-generated environment.

"You're not just seeing things on the wall. You're going to see things on your table. You're going see things on your plate. And it really is an immersive scene," iChina Chief Operating Officer and Executive Chef Eddie Lam told ABC7 News.

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Bringing the idea to Silicon Valley was intentional. Lam said the restaurant wanted to represent the innovation that exists here.

He said the space is outfitted with eight short-throw projectors, two high-powered computers, and relies on projection mapping to accomplish the experience. The room has a stainless steel ceiling, white leather walls, and customized chairs.

The dining room seats up to 12 people. For more than 3 to 3.5 hours, diners aren't meant to talk, but to take it all in.

"It hits all your different senses. You're not just tasting food, you're not just seeing food, but you're going hear audio, you're going to see visuals around you," Chef Lam added. "Just to get that nice experience, where you're really immersed."

San Jose State professor and tech expert Ahmed Banafa said VR and augmented reality (AR) are trends that emerged from the pandemic and are finding a place across various industries.

VIDEO: Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay now available for virtual tours and experiences

Pier 39's Aquarium of the Bay is forced to close in-person again following the stay-at-home order in effect, so they decided to feature some new online experiences.

"This is one of the opportunities for us to take this high-tech, that is usually limited to meetings, research... to see how is that going to apply at the ground for the retail, for the restaurants," Banafa said.

At iChina, Chef Lam said among the 14 scenes designed for diners, some are interpretive, others are very literal.

"And some are more of an emotion, or a feel, or a color, or a shade of emotion that we're looking to kind of touch," he told ABC7 News.

During an aquatic scene, a specialty crew of chefs will prepare and serve a seafood course. When diners see snow, they'll taste a ginger, oil powder that resembles it. When they see deer, they'll be served venison.

"Even though you have this death-forward food, you have a revival and you have new life coming," Lam continued. "So it's all about coming full circle and having balance."

The price of the experience is $4,500 for a minimum of 10 people. Chef Lam said the VR room would be best for adventurous diners.

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The VR dining is customizable for each individual experience. It's described as immersive, innovative and intimate. These are qualities Chef Lam said are reflective of iChina.

"We felt that, to our heritage and to our culture, family and togetherness really matters," Lam told ABC7 News. "And we felt that having and sharing these experiences with people who are more close to you is something people tend to hold very dear to themselves."

While Chef Lam admits the concept may not be for everyone, the VR dining experience opens to iChina customers in April.