Many restaurants aim to deliver some degree of novelty, but at the recently opened Café ArtScience in Cambridge, Massachusetts, diners are guaranteed an experience they won’t find anywhere else. Along with food and cocktails, the restaurant serves up an array of menu items that seem teleported from the future.
Step up to the WikiBar and order WikiPearls – morsels of such foods as yogurt, cheese and ice cream in edible, electrostatic gel wrappers designed to behave like a grape skin, so you can hold them with your fingers. Or sample Le Whaf, a carafe that uses ultrasonic waves to vaporize drinks so you can inhale a flavour cloud; or AeroLife, a lipstick-sized device that delivers a zero-calorie burst of taste and nutrients.
The restaurant is part of the larger Le Laboratoire Cambridge, the North American outpost
of a Parisian education, experimentation and exhibition space founded in 2007 by Harvard professor and biomedical engineer David Edwards to encourage collaborations between artists, designers and scientists. “Le Lab is a sandbox of creation,” says Edwards. “We do experiments like any lab does, but we are committed to helping future-of-food designs move from the sandbox to the mass-market environment.”
Designer Mathieu Lehanneur, Edwards’ long-time collaborator in Paris, designed the interior, which features a honeycomb motif intended to reflect the hive-minded activity within. A lecture room with hexagonal cladding has a sliding curved wall, so it becomes part of the dining room when needed; meanwhile, a similarly patterned suspended green mirror with integrated lighting both illuminates and reflects activity at the bar.
In addition to the restaurant, Le Laboratoire contains a lecture hall, an exhibition space and administrative offices. The inaugural exhibition, Vocal Vibrations, running until March 22, takes yet another step into the future. The show includes the oRb, a hand-held ceramic ball conceived by MIT Media Lab composer Tod Machover, which translates the sound of a user’s voice into intricate vibrations. Architect Neri Oxman, also from MIT, debuts a cocoon-like chaise with a 3‑D‑printed surface made up of 44 materials that absorb sound, creating a quiet, calming environment – just the sort of thing you might require for contemplation after a mind-expanding meal.