Who said vaudeville is dead? Who said burlesque is dead? Not the people who run the Koi and Strip House restaurants inside Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. They’re busy serving dinner to the throngs lining up to see Jerry Springer host America’s Got Talent Live! And ex-Girls Next Door Holly Madison star in the aptly named Peepshow. So what menus are appropriate in this kind of dinner-and-a-show situation? Those that offer imaginative food.
The key metrics that describe the economic health of Las Vegas—gambling revenue and hotel occupancy—might be down. But there’s plenty for visitors and restaurant operators to be happy about at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Fun-seekers there can take their pick of reality-television-related showroom events and lock into reasonably priced dinner/show packages that are part of the deal. The restaurants that feed these showgoers enjoy a bonanza of early evening business from customers who are guaranteed to vacate their tables before primetime dining begins.
First up each night in the 1,300-seat Chi Showroom at Planet Hollywood is America’s Got Talent Live!, hosted by Jerry Springer. Breaking down the cost, ticket prices for this 7 p.m. show are $64, $79 and $104, depending on the seat. The dining part of the package offers a prix-fixe meal from Planet Hollywood’s two lead restaurants, Koi and Strip House. The tab at Koi is $56.75 per person; the Strip House meal goes for $55.
And what meals they are. The menus tell us a lot about the increasing sophistication of diners and what operators have to offer to lure them in. Remember the days when a Las Vegas showroom diner was a slab of prime rib and a baked potato? Check out what they’re serving now.
At Strip House, executive chef John Schenk, a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 1995, offers this menu to America’s Got Talent Live! showgoers:
Choice of Appetizer:
Lobster Bisque Cappuccino, Chopped Lobster and Chives
Caesar Salad, Parmesan Cheese and Paprika Croutons
Grilled Asparagus, Stilton Cheese, Red Grape Tomatoes and Sherry Vinaigrette
Choice of Entrée:
Strip House 6-oz. Filet Mignon, Black Truffle Creamed Spinach and Whipped Potatoes
Sliced Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breast, Artichoke and Fingerling Potato Hash, Chicken Jus
Sautéed Atlantic Salmon, Haricots Vert, Arugula, Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
Choice of Dessert
Chocolate Crème Brule
Strip House Lemon-Scented Cheesecake
Too fancy for fans of lowbrow TV king Jerry Springer who are paying big bucks to see a talent lineup that includes break dancer Hario Torres, basketball dunking entertainers Acrodunk, singing trio Texas Tenors and comedian Grandma Lee? Not anymore. Schenk, however, goes with a slightly more mainstream steakhouse menu for Peepshow, which has a 9 p.m. start. The top package for this one is $288, which includes not just dinner but a champagne toast plus “exclusive cabaret seating at the foot of the stage” with a specialty cocktail thrown in. Customers willing to sit just a little further back get much the same deal for $141.
But the best bargain comes with the Koi package, which goes for $128. The menu includes:
Miso Tofu & Seaweed
Koi Signature Starters (select one)
Tuna Tartare on Crispy Wontons
Chicken Yakatori Sesame, Ichimi Glaze
Organic Field Greens, Miso or Ponzu Dressing
Creamy Rock Shrimp Tempura
Crispy Rice topped with Spicy Tuna
Baked Crab Cut Roll
California Cut Roll
Vegetable Cut Roll
Koi Signature Hot Dishes (select one)
Miso Bronzed Black Cod, Medley of Vegetables
Grilled Skirt Steak, Crispy Red Onions, Sesame Sauce
Pan-Seared Chicken Breast, Potatoes, Asparagus, Mustard Cilantro Sauce
Seared Salmon, Edamame, Snow Peas, Sake Black Bean Sauce
Tofu & Vegetables, Sweet & Spicy Ginger Sauce
Dessert (select one)
Koi Signature Cheesecake
The people who choose this option will be moving on to watch former Hugh Hefner consort Madison star in a show that “combines sexy striptease and celebrity with high-level production values.” It demonstrates that even those who opt for the $100-per-person exclusive Holly Madison Meet & Greet Update have higher culinary standards than they did just a few years ago.
The ten-week run of Jerry Springer and America’s Got Talent Live! ends in mid-December. Holly Madison is signed with Peepshow until September, 2010. The success of these particular dinner-and-a-show packages demonstrates that while the lowest common denominator for theatrical entertainment might be on the decline, the food sophistication of those who attend them appears to be on the rise. The next time you find yourself writing a menu for a group function, keep this in mind.