Munchgroup, the company that in January launched the paired businesses Munchbar and Piano Bash at Bellevue Square, is pleased with the nighttime crowd it has nabbed at both businesses and now is looking at capturing a younger audience and the lunchtime crowd as well.
Shawn Olyaie, one of the three managing partners of the business, which also operates a Munchbar in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, says the twin businesses are drawing good crowds on Thursday through Saturday nights.
The company now is eyeing building on what’s working well three months into the venture here and tweaking things in other areas.
For example, Olyaie says, Piano Bash has been extremely popular on the evenings that the dueling pianists play. On a recent evening, there were three pianists rotating through two piano benches, allowing for breaks for their chops as the standing-room only crowd hit them with requests ranging from Journey to Nirvana, with some very humorous ad-libbed birthday songs thrown in for good measure.
Olyaie says that in order to take advantage of the space more, the business is planning to construct a stage in Piano Bash so it can host live bands on nights when the pianists aren’t playing.
Next door at Munchbar, the 199-person capacity dining room was relatively empty on a weekday afternoon, but packed with a young dining crowd on a Saturday evening. Once the dinner hours are over, the tables in the center of the room are whisked away and the restaurant is transformed into a popular nightclub, featuring a rotating list of DJs, including some from Las Vegas. Olyaie says now that it has successfully taken a bite of the nightlife crowd, the company hopes to emphasize more of its menu and seek to draw a lunch crowd and more families in the early evenings and on weekends.
To that end, executive chef Seis Kamimura is updating the just-months-old menu, which includes items such as Ahi Tuna Tartare, a variety of burgers and seafood dishes, and Angus ribeye steak with frites. Kamimura was trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York and has worked with Wolfgang Puck Catering and BOKA Kitchen + Bar in Seattle, among others, Olyaie says.
Additionally, Munchbar is planning a brunch for sometime in May, which Olyaie says would be attended by someone famous—though he can’t say who yet—who will appeal to teens the way other celebrity appearances have attracted adults at Munchbar’s ultra lounge evening events. So far, celebrity guests have included Mario Lopez and Edgar Martinez, with an appearance by Carmen Electra planned for April 23.
Olyaie has himself moved to Bellevue from Las Vegas to oversee operations here for at least a year, and his partner, Bart Mahoney, travels between Las Vegas and Bellevue. A third partner, Robert Frey, is mostly in Las Vegas planning future ventures, which Olyaie says could possibly include a downtown Seattle club.