Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2010

Photo: Kiyohide Hori

There are dinners, and there are shows. And then there’s Luna Regalo.

If you’ve exhausted all the fine-dining options in Tokyo, if plunking down thousands of yen for a sedate meal in Azabu-Juban or Ginza leaves you underwhelmed, then book a table at this culinary and acrobatic extravaganza.

The emphasis here is on spectacle—Luna Regalo is all about opulence and indulgence. The admission fee of ¥16,000 includes a dinner of sterling fusion fare prepared by Japanese celebrity chefs, among them TV maven Tsutomu Ochiai (right), whose La Bettola is the toughest table in Tokyo, and Iron Chefs Hiroyuki Sakai and Chen Kenichi. Each course is punctuated by acrobatic performances from the Great Moscow Circus, a Russian troupe specializing in aerial gymnastics.

The venue isn’t hard to find—just look for the massive purple tent plopped down in the middle of Hibiya’s Patio Park. Inside is a grand dining hall with ornate chandeliers and satin curtains hanging from the rafters and walls. The show’s theme—“A meal from the moon and the stars”—carries through to the decor, with the ceiling conjuring up a summer night of glittering stars and a luminescent moon. Every inch of Luna Regalo is orchestrated to remind you that it’s “event dining.”

The clientele is an eclectic mix—a group of young OLs serenely taking in the surroundings, an older couple giggling and snapping pictures, a businessman with his disinterested son, the occasional foreigner surrounded by eager-to-please associates. Just about everyone is decked out for the occasion.

Cheesy? Definitely. But it all fits with the atmosphere, which is sort of like one of those TV foodie tours where everyone gasps “Umai!” after biting into their glistening forkfuls. The night is emceed by a Fuji TV news anchor (who will have their picture taken with you during breaks), and large-screen monitors offer biographical information on the chefs, along with the ingredients of the dishes you’re eating, and the backstory to your dining exodus—which, apparently, is a megalomaniac’s desire to assemble the “best chefs in the universe” for a single meal. Service is excellent, though the drink ordering system—consisting of Vegas-style chips—is needlessly cumbersome.

Considering the vaunted profiles of the chefs, foodies might be disappointed in the overall quality of the meal. Presentation seems to have outweighed execution, and we wished the chefs were actually backstage preparing the dishes instead of just having created the menus. Each course features pretty plates and clever conception—all the dishes are meant to evoke some aspect of the cycles of the moon—and there are some nifty concoctions, like a bright yellow mound of ground tofu and corn (sort of like a sweeter and spongier tamale husk) and a piece of wagyu steak fried katsu style.

Everything, however, is served too cold, a consequence of all the guests in the 150-plus audience needing to receive their food at the exact same time—the waiters literally run out of a tunnel, silver salvers in hand. The notable exception is the chilled dessert, prepared by Hironobu Tsujiguchi of Jiyugaoka patisserie Mont St. Claire: a concoction of fromage frais, mango puree and yogurt sorbet topped with hazelnut gingerbread. Designed to look like a waxing harvest moon, it’s one of the most sublime sweets we’ve ever tasted.

In the end, though, spectacle wins out. Nearly every act by those indomitable Russians displays stunning feats of athleticism, from back flips onto each other’s shoulders to gravity-defying trapeze routines, all accompanied by attractive Japanese dancers who possibly moonlight for Johnny’s and Horipro. Each act has a theme as well, like “sibling dances” or married couples serenading each other on swing bars. The highlight is the “Icarian Games,” a set of leg flips and twists by a family of acrobats that amazes not just because of its speed or strength, but because of the aged parents who do everything their kids do—and more. Another plus: at Luna Regalo, unlike at Cirque du Soleil, each seat offers an unobstructed view of the action.

But really, the fun is in experiencing the two luxuries at once—gourmet cuisine and slam-bang acrobatics—as well as the satisfaction that you’re cramming an entire night’s entertainment into the span of a little under two and a half hours.

Luna Regalo runs through October 17. Lunch and dinner, ¥16,000 per person (Mon-Fri); ¥18,000 (Sat-Sun). 1-4-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku. Nearest stn: Yurakucho or Hibiya. Check the online calendar for performance dates; Mon and Tue are often days of rest. http://luna-regalo.jp