Don't be fooled by the decidedly campy decor in this garden-level hideaway. Mismatched chairs and paper tablecloths aside, the five-star food and unique flair makes theater-flanked Spotlight a foodie destination.
At the heart of the operation is chef/owner/host David Lee, who brings more than 40 years' experience to his newest role. Also the brains behind suburban Chinoiserie and Little Lan's, Korean-born Lee is adept at bringing Asian classics up to contemporary speed, with plenty of influence from the Italian, French, Mexican, Thai and American kitchens he has trained in. Menu offerings like steamed mussels, fresh basil chicken, beef with three nuts and buttery-garlicky Shrimp de Jongue feature simple recipes that showcase the fresh ingredients and the important details...like handmade noodles.
With a little coaxing from Lee, though, you'll put your menu aside. His real pleasure is to craft a personalized dish after asking a few brief questions and evaluating the best his kitchen has to offer that day (these handcrafted specials, priced according to the ingredients he uses, are a steal at $15-$20 per person). And don't miss out on a round of "gushi": The word is one Lee invented to describe his customized roll-your-own-sushi presentation, which is, as far as we know, the city's first and only.
"Gushi" also happens to be Lee's nickname, and he'll likely ask you to refer to him as such. His restaurant may break tradition, but one thing is certain: If his tableside manner doesn't win you over, the luscious smells from the kitchen undoubtedly will. Be advised: The restaurant is cash-only. Carryout offered. BYOB.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Julia Steinberger