When Tantalize (330 Lincoln Rd.), a sensual dinner and a show experience, was announced a few months back, Rene Reyes was named executive chef . As the June 9 opening approaches, however, the two-story performance venue has had a change in the kitchen. Former chef of The District and James Beard semifinalist Horacio Rivadero will head up its International cuisine with Pan-Latin flair, the restaurant has announced
Rivadero's mentor was father of Nuevo Latino cuisine, Douglas Rodriguez, who opened Ola in 2002. Though he has won multiple honors, including being named a James Beard semifinalist, there's no reality show on his resume. That may change. "We can't say what show or network it is just yet, but our entire staff at Tantalize is on it." The cat will be let out the bag soon enough.
As for the Tantalize menu, the whole idea is a seductive exploration of the senses – both on and off the stage. And by stage, we mean the real thing. Actually two of them. "No place is off limits for the performers to interact," says Tantalize representative Jennifer Haagard. You also don't know what time the show starts or what kind of show it will even be. "The only constant is dinner and a show every night, but it's a surprise." That means you have your dinner reservation for say 10 p.m. and you could very well walk into a performance that's already started or close to finishing. Or there may be an empty stage. "Each show tells a different story and range from mild to spicy and new cabaret to theatrical dancing. We've got a tantalizing and risque cast."
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Dinner and shows will run from Tuesday through Saturday with plenty of tables and space for about 200 people. The place itself is lavish, gaudy, and avant-garde. "just like the shows." Upon walking in, you'll find a lounge where guests can have a sensually named libation such as the seducer or teaser (both $17) whilst they await their table. Inside are red tufted booths, gold tufted walls, wooden floors, and a whole lot of chandeliers and mirrors. The largest booth, by the way, sits up to 16 people. There are also two private lounges — a blue-draped one where guests are encouraged to keep imbibing in a more intimate setting, as well as a private dining room for corporate functions and what not. "Eventually we'll put private shows in here too."
Of course there will be bottle service, but Tantalize will also boast an International wine list and handcrafted cocktail list to go with Rivadero's menu, which includes items like crudos and ceviches. But not just any ceviche. "The idea is for the menu to be as risqué as the show." That means tuna foie gras in a sweet soy glaze and seaweed salad, shrimp lobster, octopus, and clams tossed in a delicate passion fruit sauce, or a scallop crudo soaked in a tarragon sauce with salmon roe and Aleppo peppers. Appetizers include lamb foie gras, meatballs with pistachio chimichurri and mushroom chicharron; cacalaito fritters served with heirloom tomatoes and avocado salad; and octopus tacos with pomegranate barbecue sauce and roasted pepper escabeche. Want something heartier? Choose from duck legs and roasted duck breast served with saffron rice and piquillo peppers; beef tenderloin churrasco with yuca pastel and heirloom tomato escabeche; braised pork served with yuca with mojo, black bean puree and pickled cabbage salad; or grilled cobia served hearts of palm escabeche, clam mojo and balsamic glazed roasted plantains and Brussels sprouts.