Though initially a box-office flop, Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic Blade Runner went on to inspire legions of future filmmakers, video game developers, fashion designers, and, somewhat unexpectedly, now also a Montreal restaurateur.
Yann Levy, who’s hatched such spots as Japanese cocktail bar Gokudo, downtown izakaya Biiru, and Cuban eatery La Habanera, plans to open a “cyberpunk” Japanese noodle bar called Neotokyo in Downtown Montreal’s business district, likely in January 2022. For ownership, he’s joined by Ilan Benhaim, co-founder of French e-commerce website Veepee.
“We wanted to open earlier, but due to the pandemic, we had to delay our buildout and everything,” Levy says. “I’ve been working on this since 2018. I’m really impatient.”
The restaurant’s compact menu will center on classic ramen and its no-broth alternative, mazemen — an offering Levy says was devised in collaboration with celebrated New York City chef Shigetoshi Nakamura of the eponymous Nakamura and Niche. Otherwise, diners can expect a few other sides, cocktails, imported sakes, and wines.
Located on Viger West, Neotokyo’s design will veer retro-futuristic, taking cues from the gritty technology-governed cityscapes popularized by Blade Runner, itself modelled on the Phillip K. Dick sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The restaurant’s name is an allusion to the fictional dystopian metropolis where the cyberpunk manga series Akira is set.
Though still under construction, once Neotokyo opens, diners can expect a dark and moody atmosphere — “a bit post-apocalyptic” even, Levy says — peppered with back-lit signage, glowing neon lettering, and plenty of raw concrete surfaces. Asked about his inspiration, Levy sends Eater this clip from the Scott film, where Harrison Ford’s character perches onto a stool in a back-alley noodle shop before being hauled off, bowl in hand, by the cops.
Consistent with the cyberpunk theme, Neotokyo is to be tucked beneath what is slated to become a new 1,000-person Montreal office for tech giant Google. And though all-powerful multinational tech corporations are typically the antagonists in any cyberpunk storyline, Levy is happy to co-exist with his new neighbour: “I’m going to be really focused on serving that big lunch crowd ... The goal is to open when the area’s office workers are at least partially back.”
By the end of next year, Neotokyo will also house a basement sushi bar, open later, but sporting the same visual markers of the cyberpunk aesthetic — hopefully, though, without falling into some of the Orientalist tropes that another recent rehashing of the genre (video game Cyberpunk 2077) has been criticized for. Asked about that last bit, Levy says simply, “We’re just here to have fun and make some ramen.”
Neotokyo is slated to open on the ground floor of 425 Viger West in January 2022.