Las Vegas already has a Sphinx next to a Statue of Liberty next to an Eiffel Tower—so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the city’s newest attraction is a culinary adventure in a submarine.
On the other side of the freeway from the Strip, in a hub of avant-garde nightlife called Area15, the local rum maker Lost Spirits Distillery has launched a 16-course seafood feast (with drink pairings) in an intricately immersive dinner theater experience themed around (and named for) Jules Verne’s 1870 science fiction novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The real-life meal is far from the no-holds-barred fare served in the novel (kangaroo pie! Tapiro wrasse dressed in peacock brains and flamingo tongue!), yet every dish holds the kind of delicious surprise you might expect from a Michelin-starred tasting menu. Not that Lost Spirits plays by Michelin’s rules. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, the venue hosts two seatings, each accommodating up to 14 diners, who begin the night swigging pineapple- or cherry-infused rum as they roam a performance space that feels like Victorian Shanghai—think acrobats, burlesque dancers, comedians, crooners, magicians, mentalists, and snake-charming belly dancers. At the appointed hour, guests are seated at the communal banquet table, where a feast unfolds that combines the rollicking vibe of The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea” with the over-the-top splendor of Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest.”
Without giving too much away, we can tell you that the dinner kicks off with an ornate teacup of sparkling rum, leading into a menu that’s both earthy—packing lots of umami heft thanks to caviar, foie gras, and truffles—and heavenly, owing to its use of spectacular presentation, such as a dab of uni served on the extended tongue of a porcelain mouth. Squeamish stomachs beware: Whale is on the menu. Well, sort of; you’ll see!
If this all sounds nonsensical, good. “The menu doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t supposed to make sense,” says chef Taylor Persh, who has put as much as eight months of development into a single dish (the chestnut-truffle scallop). “It’s an adventure, and a big part of adventure is mystery—not knowing what’s ahead.”
Persh adds that her favorite dish in the progression of courses is the fried shrimp head, which is plated as if it’s attacking diners. “It’s the big moment that asks guests, ‘Are you in or are you out?’ We specifically designed it to be uncomfortable, but the whole idea is that this is a voyage where you miss home, so we provide comfort food by using uncomfortable ingredients.”