The Tao Las Vegas restaurant makes a liar out of the old saw that too many cooks spoil the broth — especially on Saturday, its busiest day. That’s when 57 cooks don their headgear — mostly baseball caps, because towering white hats are the cap in trade for the eight chefs guiding the culinary crew — to roll out gallons upon gallons of broth, 150 pounds of sea bass, oodles of noodles, and a plethora of pot stickers as they prepare dinners for 1,400 or so of the restaurant’s favorite customers, according to a Wall Street Journal chronicle
of one of the busiest high-end restaurants in the country.
That customer load requires not only exquisite timing but also a detailed plan to achieve that timing. For example, an 8-ounce sea bass filet passes through the hands of three cooks en route to its final destination as, let’s say, the $36 “Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with Wok Vegetables, according to the Journal feature article. A prep cook bakes it for five minutes or so at 1 p.m. Hours later, another cook gives it another five minutes as it proceeds toward its final dish. When the customer orders, the filet gets a one-minute dash through an oven before a server rushes it out to the dining room.
That flash-fish technique is one of the tricks Tao uses to feed the rush of diners. Although Saturdays are busiest, Thursdays and Fridays draw a crowd, too, with 1,000 patrons apiece, while other days see 300 to 600 diners, the Journal story notes.
The Journal characterizes the 5-year-old Tao as “part of a wave of mega-restaurants that treated dinner almost as a theatrical production, where sexy decor, attractive patrons and the promise of seeing a celebrity or two were as important as the food. Like most high-end restaurants, these spots suffered during the downturn. Still, Tao Las Vegas, where the average check is about $70 a person, is one of the country's most lucrative restaurants. “
That’s why it goes through 1,400 pairs of chopsticks, 50 pounds of rice, and 1,800 napkins on a Saturday. It’s a 24-hour operation, even though the restaurant is open only for dinner. One of the duties of the four-member setup team is lighting the restaurant’s 269 candles and prepping the 20-foot Buddha statue. One worker spends his entire eight-hour shift just sweeping the floor.
“In Las Vegas, everybody is looking for the big experience," Rich Wolf told the Journal. He is co-owner of the Tao Group, which owns Tao Las Vegas, 11 other restaurants and seven nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas. "It isn't your first thought for a quiet, intimate date," but it's where "people can go to when they want to be festive and celebrate and paint the town red.”
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