Updated September 24, 2020 - 8:03 am
Chef and owner Dan Coughlin, best known to local foodies for his pioneering Fremont Street restaurant Le Thai, said the decision to open earlier than planned came from the hotel, and it’s fine with him.
“I told David (Rosborough, Circa’s vice president of operations), ‘Hey, your job is to get people here post-COVID, right now. We trust you on that — getting people to this casino. Our job is to make some good food and to fill this restaurant.’ ”
When Coughlin was first approached about doing an Asian concept in Circa, he said the plan was for a traditional, formal Chinese restaurant. He, however, had other ideas.
“We still wanted it to be street. We didn’t want it to be boujee. The steakhouse is there to be boujee, which is beautiful, and it’s going to be awesome. But we wanted to make sure you could come in with a group of friends and still be comfortable.”
While 8 East’s kitchen was under construction, Coughlin and his team developed the menu at his Le Thai locations and his home and the homes of friends. The result is a menu that combines Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai influences.
“We always wanted dumplings because who doesn’t like a dumpling?” Coughlin said. “And then we always thought yakitori, which is cool late-night. So we were like dumplings, skewers and then baos. We were like, ‘Oh man, we gotta have some good baos!’ And then we do a lot of steaks at the house with lots of sauces, so we were like man, ‘We gotta have a steak that you can share.’ And I think the last part was just ‘Dude, we gotta have a couple of noodle dishes.’ ”
“The whole thing is about sharing,” adds Couglin’s wife and partner, Shauna Dong. “You come in with a group of friends, and everybody picks. Then you just throw it in the middle of the table and just share.”
The beverage program will include Asian whiskies, natural wines and cocktails that incorporate Asian flavors such as ginger, basil and lychee. When asked about prices, Coughlin said most small dishes were priced between $9 and $12, and he estimated that diners will be able to spend between $20 and $40 a head, including a couple of drinks.
When asked about opening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the chef said that he’s comfortable with the safety protocols developed at his other restaurants and is hoping to see the same attention to safety at 8 East.
“I hope Circa does a good job at vetting and having some sort of rules where people feel safe,” he said. “Because the moment people don’t feel safe, we’re going backward again. That’s just a fact.”
He was quick to add, however, that he has faith in Circa owner Derek Stevens.
“If there’s a casino operator I want to work with for the first time, it’s definitely Derek. His energy is insane. And that guy will die trying, I think. That’s just how Derek rolls.”