Dining With Celebrities
Dining with the stars
by Jill Fergus October 2008
There’s one more way to impress your clients: Take them to dinner with the A-list.
When choosing a restaurant for a business dinner, you have many elements to consider. Cuisine is one of the main concerns, of course, but location, service and ambience all play important roles as well. You’ve no doubt done your homework and selected a venue that satisfies all of your group’s requirements, but why not add an extra dose of glamour by holding your event at a restaurant frequented by celebrities? It can certainly add a dash of excitement to the occasion and will no doubt be a conversation starter—or ender, should you should come face to face with, say, Charlize Theron or George Clooney. Here are some places around the U.S. where a megawatt star might just wind up sitting at the next table.
Sushi Samba Rio
504 North Wells Street, 312-595-2300, sushisamba.com
David Rockwell’s flashy design—with bright blue tiled walls and a floor-to-ceiling curtain of silvery beads—the lively samba music and a festive vibe make this large sushi restaurant one of the Windy City’s hippest hangouts. The menu, with influences from Japan, Brazil and Peru, features yellowtail sashimi seviche, lobster tempura rolls and pan-seared scallops with yuzu soy, and the cocktail list is loaded with Latin faves like caipirinhas and pisco sours. Local luminaries like Michael Jordan, David Schwimmer and John Cusack are regulars, and Christian Bale, Jessica Simpson, Will Ferrell and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson have also dined here. There are private dining spaces available, including a rooftop lounge that holds 150.
New York, New York
88 10th Avenue, 212-989-8883, morimotonyc.com
Fans of Iron Chef were thrilled when famed Japanese sushi master and former Nobu chef Masaharu Morimoto and Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr opened a second branch of Morimoto on Manhattan’s far west side (Starr’s other Philly transplant, Buddakan, is nearby). Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas are among the fashionable clientele who flock to the attractive space designed by Tadao Ando, one of Japan’s leading architects. At the 24-seat sushi bar, diners can watch Morimoto and his talented staff create sublime dishes like crispy rock-shrimp tempura with wasabi aioli, kumamoto oysters with foie gras, and a softshell crab roll in a spicy sauce. Don’t forget to try some of the specialty sakes, including the pear-flavored gingo.
Los Angeles, California
9500 Wilshire Boulevard, 310-276-8500, wolfgangpuck.com
This modern steakhouse at the Beverly Wilshire is the latest from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who always attracts a starry crowd—including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and David and Victoria Beckham—to his stable of super-successful restaurants. The soaring space, designed by esteemed architect Richard Meier, is noted for its curved lines, the minimalist black-and-white photos on the walls and the skylit ceiling, which makes for a dramatic dining experience. Carnivores will love the melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef short ribs seasoned with Indian spices, the wagyu fiet mignon and the rotisserie-cooked organic poussin (there are plenty of non-meat options, too), and everyone will enjoy the impressive wine list, with labels from around the globe.
New Orleans, Louisiana
1403 Washington Avenue, 504-899-8221,
You can’t visit the Big Easy and not dine at Commander’s Palace. This Garden District landmark, founded by the Brennan family more than a century ago, is still the place to be (and to learn: Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse both got their starts here). Following a $6 million post-Katrina renovation, the beloved Victorian building, with its turrets and distinctive turquoise and white facade, is back to serving up delicious Cajun and Creole specialties like gumbo, turtle soup spiked with sherry, shrimp rémoulade and griddle-seared Gulf fish to a crowd that might include film stars (Jim Carrey), politicians (John McCain) and sportsmen (Saints quarterback Drew Brees). Even globe-trotting power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who own a home in the French Quarter, have dropped in.
Here are a few additional restaurants frequented by celebrities.
Upstairs on the Square (91 Winthrop Street, 617-864-1933, upstairsonthesquare.com) Harvard hosts its annual “Hasty Pudding Man and Woman of the Year” luncheon at this Cambridge restaurant on Harvard Square—Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford are past honorees, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have also been spotted.
Scala’s Bistro (432 Powell Street, 415-395-8555, scalasbistro.com) This stylish, Parisian-style bistro in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, with mahogany wainscoting and gilded mirrors, serves classic dishes like mussels, steak frites and Chilean sea bass to stars like Tommy Lee and Cybil Shepard.
Oak Steakhouse (17 Broad Street, 843-722-4220, oaksteakhouserestaurant.com) First daughter Jenna Bush and movie stars Andie McDowell and Kevin Costner (in town for filming) have dined at this popular steakhouse, housed in a former bank built in 1850. Two of chef Brett McKee’s top dishes include beef carpaccio and bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
Zaytinya (701 9th Street NW, 202-638-0800, zaytinya.com)Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal recently dined on octopus and lamb at this hip Penn Quarter restaurant. Diners can choose from dozens of chef Jose Andres’s small-plate items (called mezzes) from Greece, Lebanon and Turkey.
Tinto (114 South 20th Street, 215-665-9150, tintorestaurant.com)This tiny Basque wine bar and tapas restaurant (don’t miss the paella) from celebrated chef Jose Garces, who also owns Amada, has become the go-to spot in Philly for celebrities like Laura Linney, Robert Redford and Paul Giamatti.
JILL FERGUS is a freelance writer in New York.