Vida, which will serve Pan-American cuisine (vaguely from this hemisphere, Florida, and southward), looks as though it could open tomorrow. Banquettes are in place, along with another gorgeous exhibition kitchen, large hearth ovens, and a rustic rotisserie. Foods from the South of France will be featured at La Côte, modeled after sexy La Palmier in Saint-Tropez. Guests will also be able to enjoy tapas-style snacks at the bar. La Côte is located poolside, and we peer at what will presumably be an outdoor patio soon.
A long, sleek contemporary sushi bar has been installed at Blade, and it is clear this space, which also opens out onto the pool area, is going to be dazzling. O'Connell promises "a purist style of sashimi, nigiri sushi, and omakase. We won't be doing cut rolls and all those American-style rolls." Moving on, we come to the bakery and coffee shop, Solo, and try to visualize it overflowing with Old World breads, "artisan cakes, and a chocolate artist who will be pouring his wares."
The real eye opener of this culinary pilgrimage occurs when we arrive at the enormous pastry kitchens that will supply baked goods. The ovens and equipment, all in place, are so up-to-the-minute that there are units I haven't even seen in industry magazines.
None of the Fontainebleau's incoming restaurants is creating more buzz than the stateside debut of Hakkasan — the only Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant in the United Kingdom. Chef Alan Yau will dish what O'Connell describes as "a modern approach to Cantonese cuisine, with a little Korean and some slight Japanese influences."
Is O'Shields concerned about debuting the project during an economic meltdown? "I think anybody who would say they're not worried is fooling themselves and probably not telling you the truth. You operate smarter, you operate tighter, watch your labor closer, and do the things you have to do to ensure you're running an efficient business."
They're certainly not skimping on the grand opening. A half-century ago, 1,600 people attended the hotel's inaugural ball; the big star was the mayor of Fontainebleau, France. This time around, the premiere will be stripped down — as in a $5 million party highlighted by a Victoria's Secret lingerie show November 15. The hotel will open the following day.