[TASTE: Dinner and a (Drag) Show]
Lucky Cheng's is a lot of fun, but don't bring the kids
By Skylaire Alfvegren
Who knew the "drag queen capital of the world" could be found a stone's throw from the Diocese of Las Vegas and across the street from the wonderfully anachronistic Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Strip?
Lucky Cheng's—an institution in Manhattan's East Village—has been serving up dinner and drag cabaret since October '94 (and gained international attention when Prince Albert of Monaco popped in for din-din the following February).
The pan-Asian cuisine and fierce attitude of the original Cheng's debuted in Las Vegas a few months ago; word of mouth has already made it a destination restaurant. Richly appointed in red velour and black lacquer, its Asiatic influence continues with the food, which features a three-course prix fixe menu: appetizer, entrée and dessert for $35.
With the focus on the multitalented drag queens—who pull double duty as waitresses and entertainment—it's shocking to find that the food is excellent. There is not a loser among the entrées created by Executive Chef Derek Long and his crew—the hibachi-grilled filet mignon is superb, the grilled ahi tuna is succulent and the lime-grilled breast of chicken is moist and delicious.
After many moons with La Cage Aux Folles at the Riviera, fabulous female impersonator Larry Edwards graces the stage for Monday night karaoke. Channeling Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle, it's a raucous good time, with no cover, just a two-drink minimum.
And what drinks! ("Remember, the more you drink, the prettier we look" chortles the drink menu.) Hands-down favorites: the Pink Paris Pussy, a concoction of Burnett's Orange vodka, peach schnapps, Triple Sec and lime juice; and Dirty Delta's Meltdown, a blend of Whaler's Killer Coconut Rum and watermelon schnapps, made even sweeter when served by the drink's namesake.
New York transplant Sean Murdock flits among the tables, fashioning risque balloon creations for the customers: penis hats and X-rated balloon couples (his work is featured in the current issue of Playgirl).
There is a performer for every taste: Catch Dirty Delta, lithe and streetwise, a fixture at the original location in New York, before she returns east next month; or Tara, whose Irish brogue and pert decolletage are sure to enhance your dining experience; or Ginger, classically elegant. The electricity is especially overwhelming on Friday and Saturday nights, when eight queens jockey for attention.
Lucky Cheng's is not exactly a "family" restaurant (some of the staff is post-op and put on fairly risque performances). Ask for a "drag box" (the drag queen's lap dance) along with your dessert (selections rotate). As Delta attests, "Vegas doesn't even know what's in store for them."