Virtual BBQ restaurant Air Yakiniku

[From the New York Times blog The Moment; a 2:12 minute video is available here]

Food

July 20, 2009, 2:12 pm

Now Online | Air Yakiniku, Food for Thought

By ROCKY CASALE

When the virtual restaurant Air Yakiniku appeared online last January, it became both an instant success in Japan (where else?) and one of the more curious signs of these globally lean times. The “restaurant,” a Korean barbecue, works like this: once you´re on the site, you´re given an apron to print out and wear to keep “grease” from splattering on your computer. I´m not joking. Then you´re asked to choose from slices of pork, chicken or beef, which a hand splays out on a full-screen sizzling BBQ spit.  Visitors are encouraged to have (real) bowls of rice and dipping sauce on hand as they watch and listen to their beef crackle and char. A bell softly dings when the meat is cooked, a hand with chopsticks appears, and it´s time to … um … eat.

In addition to virtual restaurants, there are virtual bars, like the Sapporo Beer bar, which is open online during regular Japanese bar hours, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. It´s hard to know if the trend is a smart-aleck social satire, interactive performance art, a diet gimmick or all three. Whatever the reason, Air Yakiniku is now ranked the 29th most searched site on Yahoo.

Update | July 21, 3:47 p.m. The post has been edited to correct inaccuracies pointed out by readers fluent in Japanese.

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