Dish

Tantric Flex

Hogle's real hope for Tantra is that it teaches men a thing or two. “Men have been in control for so long, they've warped women's mentality about their own beauty and strength,” he says. “Guys who don't like the way women are have only themselves to blame. It's the men of this race who are going to have to evolve first.” Getting in touch with your sensuality, what some men might consider feminine, is one way to do that. Hogle considers himself a feminist, and bestows the ultimate compliment on his chef: “He's in touch with his feminine side.” In traditional terms that means he can cook. From Hogle's point of view, it means he can also open himself up to emotional possibilities.

Like love? Absolutely. Hogle knows about half a dozen couples who have been matched for life at Tantra; he himself, unmarried until his late forties, met his wife there. “If Tantra had failed -- and it could have, given our bad location and a landlord who wouldn't let us fix up the building -- it still would have been a personal success for me.”

But Tantra hasn't failed. In fact despite local condemnation of prices and gimmick, Tantra has been invited to open in Hollywood, near Mann's Chinese Theater, and in Las Vegas. The latter project will be completed first, by year's end, and cost about ten million dollars-- chump change in Vegas, but about nine million more than the South Beach Tantra cost. Hogle and Loughhead also are putting together an aphrodisiac cookbook, and a TV Food Network about wine.

Jeremy Eaton

As for the so-called gimmicks, Hogle says he tried to remove the grass floor and stop showing Kama Sutra, but customers complained. So he just shrugs about them now, and freely admits it was his wife who first started dancing on the speakers until the trend caught on. “I don't know when it became politically incorrect to have fun. But the restaurant business isn't about food alone. I see the whole industry as entertainment.”

So feel free to scoff and call the place a tourist trap. Proprietor Hogle, of course, would have you call it Tantra. In the end, though, he's the one laughing all the way to the bank. Or to the bedroom, if you prefer.

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