After 60 years in the dark, the Diamond Horseshoe has been brought back to life for a decadent, bacchanal feast wrapped into the onstage production Queen of the Night. “This is an indulgent, experiential adventure,” explains John Meadow. “You are invited to a lavish dinner party with your friends, and it’s completely communal. It’s as if you’re in an alternative universe, and it’s amazing to watch guests put down their guard and be willing to engage in a different kind of experience.”
Chef Jason Kallert had the chops and the discipline to get the job done—which includes sending out 250 plates to the tables simultaneously. “Timing is everything when you have a full-blown show happening all around you,” says Meadow. “To be able to execute with that kind of precision is extremely challenging, but Jason is a talented chef in that regard.” Nine years at Le Cirque brought Kallert’s acute knowledge of French cuisine to the table for this supper club revival that evokes Moulin Rouge and the decadent postwar Paris years.
Built loosely on The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night is a dark, debutante-style ball thrown for the Queen’s daughter. “That was the original concept, at least,” says Chef Kallert. “Imagine a game of telephone: at the end, you are many times removed from that initial communication. This too branched off in different directions.” The same could be said of the larger-than-life food.
Anything can and will happen. And while the performances onstage and off might unnerve you, the food will bear down with a multisensory assault of its own. About halfway through the main show comes the food parade: dinner for 250 brought out from a $6 million kitchen in under 30 seconds. This is what Kallert calls “large-format food.” Eight baby pigs brought out whole on custom-designed spits, fat dripping onto a homemade foccacia-type stromboli filled with sopressata, right out of the oven. Kallert sources the pigs from four farms in Pennsylvania and hangs them in his walk- in for 10 to 14 days so the skin is like cracked sugar when it comes off the rotisserie. There are whole blocks of short ribs, cooked with Japanese charcoal for 14 hours in a metal box fitted inside a combi oven and smoked with hickory and alder wood chips. But it’s not all protein: there’s a kale salad that will blow your mind, made with a vinaigrette puree of roasted peppers, garlic confit, and roasted shallots, as well as a roasted fingerling and black truffle potato salad. This is the food of kings— correction, queens—but you don’t have to eat like one. Pick a pig and carve it up. Grab a glass, sit next to a stranger, and share their food. It’s that open to interpretation.
Perhaps the best is saved for last: a hazelnut dacquoise cake, light and fluffy, layered with coffee-flavored pastry cream and a butter cookie–praline paste for a little crunch, smothered with a dark chocolate ganache. Decadent, you bet! And served that way too. Twelve butlers sit on a railing around the room with 12 cakes and a bunch of clean spoons. Walk up and the butler grabs you by the chin to spoon-feed you the cake. “You can’t imagine the amount of detail that goes into this production,” Kallert adds. “Our goal was to make people open up, relax, and meet new people. And it works perfectly.”