Last night I had dinner at Spotlight Live, that gigantic space on Broadway and 48th that used to be Noche. Now it’s a restaurant and karaoke lounge, but not just any karaoke lounge. It has a green room where you can prepare (although most people don't seem to). It has backup singers and dancers. The performances are broadcast live on a giant screen on Times Square. They also are recorded, and you can purchase a DVD of your performance if you want to, or you can view it on the Internet. Too shy to get on stage? Cut your track in a private booth, but try not to do anything you don’t want the whole world to see — those tracks are on the Internet, too.
Conversation with the two publicists hosting me was somewhat hampered by the need to shout over bad versions of Love Shack by giggling rhythmless women; a respectable version of Uptown Girl by a bridge-and-tunnel South Asian; really quite good versions of any number of songs — Total Eclipse of the Heart comes to mind — by a zoftig sultry-voiced alto; an embarrassing version of Bye Bye Bye by teenagers who should be too young to have any interest in *NSYNC; genuinely terrifying performances by kids too young to be shaking their bodies that way in public, in front of parents who instead of wrapping their children in blankets and ushering them away were videotaping them; and so on.
All the while the backup singers and dancers admirably stayed out of the way of good performances and tactfully sang over bad ones (it helps that management has control of the mic volumes).
So conversation was somewhat hampered, as I said, but we really got used to the circmstances and managed to engage in interesting discussion while also passing judgment on the people onstage.
Spotlight Live’s food apparently has not been getting good reviews. I hadn’t seen any reviews, but the publicists indicated that the critics had not been particularly kind, especially to the entrées, although the critics’ biggest beef seemed to be that they didn’t understand why a well established chef like Kerry Simon would sully himself by orchestrating the menu for a giant space where food is not the priority.
David Burke is in a similar situation at the nearby Hawaiian Tropic Zone, a suntan-lotion-theme restaurant with scantily-clad, numbered waitresses — or “table concierges” as the PR material calls them — who perform twice-nightly floor shows. Why, critics have asked, would David Burke do that?
“Why don’t they just ask me?” David has asked me in response.
Why indeed? Give him a call. He can often be reached at Davdburke & Donatella. Or you can go through his publicists, Bullfrog & Baum (who don’t, incidentally, represent Spotlight Live; LaForce+Stevens does, so they can field your questions about Kerry Simon’s career decisions).
And the attack on the entrées raises another interesting issue with regard to restaurant criticism. Spotlight Live does manage to sell a fair amount of the pork tenderloin entrée (pretzel-crusted pork tenderloin with sweet potato mash and grainy mustard), but clearly this is a place for appetizers and desserts, and so perhaps that’s what reviews should focus on.
It’s certainly what we focused on in our meal.
Popcorn shrimp with lemon grass aïoli and chile ponzu
Spiced Asian soy and citrus glazed baby back ribs
French onion dip and Yukon gold potato chips
Beef carpaccio pizza with blue cheese, arugula and truffle oil
Iron Chef mini burgers with bacon, cheddar cheese and truffle fries (which are on the entrée menu, but they work as appetizers)
The Make Your Own Sundae (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce, whipped cream, sprinkles, crushed Oreos, M&Ms, strawberries and Gummi bears)
Spotlight junkfood sampler (housemade versions of Snowballs, Hostess Cupcakes and Rice Krispy treats)