Purr la Table

Century Ballroom’s new cabaret just feels—and tastes—good.

Behind Century Ballroom's new cabaret, La Fête, are people who enjoy bacon as much as they do spaghetti squash, and who figure that as long as you're going to tango, you might as well booty-pop like Beyoncé too.For the production, the Capitol Hill ballroom has been transformed into a candlelit dining room with a full bar. It doesn't look like a real restaurant, but that only adds to the charm—unless you weigh more than 130 pounds."I get that this is supposed to be intimate, but I feel huge right now," my girlfriend (who is not huge) complained as she hunched awkwardly over our tiny table. Granted, it's easy to feel like Quasimodo when dining in a place where most of the servers are trained dancers who stride silently across creaky wooden floors.Professional performers turn up in the audience as well, since the space next to Century Ballroom houses Miss Indigo Blue's Academy of Burlesque. I thought the show was starting when a woman with cleavage up to her neck and latex pants walked through the door. Instead she sat at a table and was joined shortly thereafter by two equally flashy friends. The Joe Shmoes in the room became noticeably more upbeat—their dates less so. But the trio's presence inarguably made La Fête (French for "the party") feel festive.The evening's menu was created by Bo Maisano, the chef at Tin Table, which is located just across the hall from Century Ballroom. There, he whips up dishes inspired by his Italian upbringing in New Orleans. Prior to Tin Table's opening last year, Maisano's gussied-up variations on casual fare could be found at 1200 Bistro and Madison Park Café.Our three-course meal began with a roasted cauliflower purée garnished with a subtle amount of fried shallots that gave it a nice, salty kick. We were then given three entrée choices: seared black cod, roast pork tenderloin, or sautéed spaghetti squash. We opted for the first two, and it soon became obvious that the cod was the better of the pair. The fish sat prettily on a chive potato, loaded with a savory Béarnaise sauce, crispy bacon, and lump crab. The pork, on the other hand, was small and unadorned. Its orange glaze was too tangy, and the accompanying root-vegetable medley boring.I surveyed the room and noticed that the vegetarian option I had snubbed looked very appetizing: spaghetti squash in a brilliant shade of yellow, accompanied by beet greens, artichokes, and walnuts. The featured dessert, chocolate cake in a pool of caramel sauce (holy calories!), made me all but forget the sad swine. I allotted myself three small bites. But then I took two more—and two more after that."A moment on the lips, forever on the hips," I reminded myself. But before long, it was all down the hatch.Unlike most cabaret shows, La Fête is arranged so that dinner and dessert are served before the show begins. That's too bad, because the most appealing element of cabaret is that it treats food and entertainment as a simultaneous experience; there's something disconcerting about staring at an empty stage during a wining-and-dining session.In fairness, Century Ballroom isn't set up like the Triple Door or Teatro ZinZanni, which have elevated stages and complementary floor plans. Hence, it's best to simply accept this imperfection beforehand.Cheesy chaos ensues once the tables are cleared. La Fête essentially brings the classes offered at Century Ballroom—Argentine tango, West Coast swing, and a Michael Jackson tribute, to name a few—to life onstage, thanks to an eclectic cast with expertise in varying areas. The Ballroom's owner, Hallie Kuperman, and her peers provide fine displays of salsa, tango, and swing dancing. LaTwon and Arielle of the Northwest Tap Connection engage in a charming rhythm-tap routine to Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," during which they move their feet so fast that the sound of their heels knocking on the floor nearly drowns out the song.But it's the three glitter-doused dancers of the troupe Dance Belt who steal the show. Waxie Moon is a male burlesque dancer with an impressive handlebar mustache, Inga Ingénue is a pint-sized blonde resembling Lady GaGa, and Lou Henry Hoover is dancer Ricki Mason's gender-bending alter ego. The crowd instantly recognized Beyoncé's smash hit "Single Ladies" and erupted in laughter. That turned to cheering when it became obvious this wasn't a parody; they'd actually mastered the complex choreography, cramming hip-hop, jazz, tap, and God knows what else into just three minutes.Later, Dance Belt returned to perform an impressive tribute to Jackson through a mashup of his routines for "Bad," "Beat It," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and of course "Thriller." The rest of the show's dancers eventually joined Dance Belt on the final number, staggering like zombies one by one onto the dance floor. La Fête ended on the best note possible, with the entire cast performing the King of Pop's iconic dance in unison.Clearly, this is not highbrow entertainment. "The problem with the general public is they try to give meaning to everything, especially art," says Kuperman. "The goal of something like this, whether you're doing the dancing or the watching, is to have fun. Meaning isn't always that important."She's right: Sometimes it's enough just to be entertaining. That becomes very clear when a man with a '70s-porn-style mustache wags his finger at you and lip-syncs to "If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it."ehobart@seattleweekly.com

 
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