Special to the Sun/Scott Harrison
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 | 4:14 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
When Emeril Lagasse opened his newest Las Vegas venture last night, he did it the only way he knows how: With a “Bam!”
The charismatic chef was at the Palazzo on Friday to mark the rebirth and rebranding of the former Sports Book, which is now Lagasse’s namesake Stadium.
The celebrated chef, who is the brains and “bam” behind Delmonico Steak House and Table 10, was all smiles at the grand opening event.
“It's all about fun,” Lagasse said. “Good food, and fun.”
The party saw a range of small screen and sports stars walk the Astroturf-like “green carpet” alongside Las Vegas Boulevard.
“Entourage” actors Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon; LA Lakers starting point guard Derek Fisher; retired MLB pitcher Greg Maddux; race car driver Danica Patrick; retired NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp, and Olympic gold medalist/”Keeping up with the Kardashians” patriarch, Bruce Jenner, were all there, among others.
Lagasse said his latest project caters to a range of customers: male and female; sports enthusiasts and foodies; those who wish to stay indoors and patrons who prefer to be outside.
“I guarantee tomorrow, at about 7:30 (a.m.), there will be a line out the door,” Lagasse said on Friday. “Some (will) have gone to bed, some haven’t gone to bed, and they’re (all) going to want a little bit of breakfast.”
It should be noted, however, that any lineup outside Stadium before 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday wouldn’t be because the bar and book was filled to capacity: Stadium doesn’t open its doors until 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays (On Sundays, they open at 8 a.m.)
“There's something for everybody here,” the chef said. When asked about the wide-ranging menu, Lagasse suggested, “It's fun, it's casual, but with great food. … We wanted to keep it simple, we wanted to keep it fresh, not processed, with as many wholesome ingredients as we can, as homemade as we can.”
While the menu has been given an overhaul, it would appear that some of the food has remained the same: The tuna tartare canapés being served at last night’s reception were the same as the ones making the rounds at the Sports Book back in June during the Hard Bat Classic.
Stadium’s culinary offerings are a combination of traditional stadium-style food and the sort of Southern fare Lagasse has come to be known for. The varied menu has both popular and upscale items, meaning patrons can tailor their meal according to both taste and budget.
“If you want to take a break from this,” Lagasse said, gesturing at the walls of flat screen TVs in the main Sports Book section, “and have a little white tablecloth experience, you (can) go in the dugout and have anything from a great barbequed salmon to a great steak, great wine,” he said.
Stadium’s so-called dugout is a relatively closed-off dining area at the back of the venue that provides a quieter experience with a more upscale feel.
The famous Food Network chef said Stadium’s relatively sophisticated take on a classic sport-focused venue joins venues like New York’s newly-built Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
“I grew up going in Fenway Park. Now … I’m watching this new Yankee Stadium open, this new Mets stadium open, they’ve got the Shake Shack (and) the guy from Brooklyn who has the best pizza, it’s unbelievable where they evolved.”
(Shake Shack is a wildly popular burger stand that is run by Danny Meyer (who is also behind the James Beard Award-winning restaurant, Modern, as well as Union Square Café, Tabla, and Gramercy Tavern, and others) where New Yorkers regularly wait 45 minutes for one of their famed frozen custard milkshakes. Meanwhile, Cascarino’s Brick Oven Pizzeria is another well-established New York institution.)
In addition to Lagasse’s revamped menu, the reincarnated Sports Book also benefits from more high-definition TVs, bringing the total to 106 ways to watch the game, and upgraded public and private seating, including VIP “boxes” and a terrace that flanks Las Vegas Boulevard.