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    Thursday, December 07, 2023

    Mohegan Sun bringing another ‘immersive’ restaurant to casino

    Mohegan ― In the latest addition to its dining options, Mohegan Sun announced Thursday it plans to open Beauty & Essex, another restaurant from Tao Group Hospitality, the global entertainment brand that introduced the Asian-themed Tao to the casino in 2021.

    The new restaurant will open next fall in space now occupied by a food court in the Casino of the Sky, the casino said in a news release.

    Renowned chef Chris Santos, who grew up in Rhode Island, graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence and appears as a judge on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” opened the first Beauty & Essex on New York City’s Lower East Side in 2010. Other versions of the brand have since opened in Los Angeles and at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a resort casino.

    Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, said in a phone interview that the success of Tao convinced Mohegan Sun to pursue another “immersive dining experience” that would draw customers to southeastern Connecticut from as far away as New York City, as Tao has done.

    He said Tao has quickly become Mohegan Sun’s top-grossing restaurant.

    “How do you drive people to the property?” Hamilton said. “Over the last year, we’ve tried to focus on food-and-beverage options that would be reasons for people to come here. Tao is a one-of-a-kind experience for this area. It’s a reason people come here ― and then, maybe, they gamble.”

    He defined an “immersive” restaurant experience as one that features entertainment and ambience in addition to top-notch food.

    “With Tao, it’s the lights, the music, the art, the energy of the room,” Hamilton said. “It feels like you’re in another location.”

    Beauty & Essex, which Hamilton said will encompass more than 10,000 square feet and provide seating for between 250 and 350 people, is being designed by the Rockwell Group, the New York-based architects responsible for much of the design of Mohegan Sun’s interior, including Tao. The firm also designed the casino’s new VIP Lounge & Bar, part of a $15 million upgrade announced this spring that includes improvements to hotel suites and Mohegan Sun Golf Club in Baltic.

    Hamilton said Beauty & Essex “will start with a speakeasy component” ― a retail shop selling an eclectic mix of art, vintage jewelry and other items. Patrons will walk through the shop to enter the restaurant.

    “You wouldn’t know there is a restaurant,” Hamilton said.

    According to the news release, the restaurant’s menu will include Beauty & Essex staples like Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon & Tomato Soup Dumplings, Classic Beef Wellington, Togarashi Spiced Tuna and Truffled Mac & Cheese as well as some new options exclusive to Mohegan Sun.

    “I’m very excited to bring this restaurant to Connecticut,” Santos said in the release. “New England has always been my home and I know Beauty & Essex is a perfect fit."

    Santos will join other celebrity chefs at Mohegan Sun’s 19th Annual Sun Wine & Food Fest, a four-day event scheduled to take place in late January.

    Mohegan Sun’s Beauty & Essex announcement comes with Foxwoods Resort Casino near to making major restaurant news of its own. The Mashantucket Pequot-owned casino announced Aug. 31 that it planned to undertake $85 million in improvements next year, including opening a 13,000-square-foot celebrity chef-owned restaurant.

    It said it would name the celebrity chef this year.


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