I had one of the best Ramen ever at Kodawari Ramen in Paris. It's both authentic and fake at the same time.

They're known for their sardine-based broth. It looks like a Japanese fish market inside, with fish containers, ice, and even a giant Bluefin Tuna on a table. But it's all fake, down to the ice in the containers. It doesn't even smell fishy (I'm sure the customers appreciate it).

While eating, I started chatting with my partner about whether the restaurant was "authentic."

Authenticity is inversely correlated with the perception of a 'designed' experience. Authentic experiences have a level of discomfort and rawness that feels less commercial and more crafty. Designed experiences improve quality of life by removing discomfort and annoyances but can be perceived as more commercial.

And the lines between authentic and designed can get blurry.

My argument during our meal was this: How is Kodawari different from any Disney restaurant? Their food is not on the same level, but they're playing the same chords with the overall experience. Kodawari would be more authentic if I asked around the restaurant. But is it because they reference a particular place and culture (fish markets in Japan)? Disney has country-themed restaurants in Epcot. Still doesn't feel the same.

Kodawari sits in the middle scale between authentic and designed. Having an actual fish market there with all the fish smells would be a step too far for any dinner. The tension is that most people long for authentic but expect designed experiences. The expectation goes beyond restaurants or entertainment. I see that happening often with the travel and beauty industries too.

Designers and entrepreneurs have to sit at an interesting intersection where they arbitrate where to sit on that scale to offer a compelling product or service. It only gets trickier as the variables increase when building a company that's responsible, ethical, and culturally aware.

(This post is more stream-of-consciousness than usual. I'll get back to this topic in the future)