Table for Two: Actor James Woods educates Debbie Lee on the virtues of minimalism at Public School 702.
AN UNDER-THE-RADAR ARRIVAL
James: Can they know who we are or what we’re here for?
Debbie: No. Perhaps after the meal, but the general rule is to dine anonymously to avoid special treatment.
James: Okay. Hey, it looks like there’s a table outside that’s about to be cleared. ( Turns to hostess) Do you think we can move from this booth over there?
Manager ( who miraculously appears out of nowhere): Of course, Mr. Woods — only because you’re from Warwick, Rhode Island. … I’m Kyle. I’m the GM. If there’s anything you need, you just let me know, all right?
James: This guy used to go to my brother’s video store!
Debbie: Well, there goes keeping a low profile.
ON WOODS’ EVOLVING PALATE AND LOCAL FAVORITES
Debbie: I chose this spot because the menu is pretty basic, and I was unsure of what you like. Are you a picky eater? What kind of stuff did you grow up eating?
James: Rhode Island is a very specific state for food. I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s the healthiest cuisine, but most tasty stuff is not. Quite frankly, I like good food. I can eat Beluga caviar by the pound with a soupspoon, but I was very secular in my tastes when I was young. My mom used put together these simple meals. She was a good cook, but she learned from my father, who was in the military. He just had a knack for it.
When I was a kid we used to go to trout fishing with my mom, my dad, my maternal grandmother, my little brother, who was 2 and a half at the time. I could clean a fish faster than anyone. Just keep the tail on, hack the head off and away we go. We’d pan-fry the trout — simple! — and my grandmother would make homemade blueberry pie.
Debbie: And how has that taste changed over the years?
James: Well, in my later age it’s kind of fun exploring new cuisines. On this trip to Las Vegas I really liked Shish Kabob House. And Yellowtail was great. We ordered all of the appetizers there.
Debbie: You say you like simple stuff, but unless we’re talking about clean Japanese dishes, I think you would cry if you knew just how much salt and butter went into your average restaurant meal. When I worked as a chef, the guiding principle was, “Fat equals flavor.”
James: Because I have to be on a low-sodium diet, I disagree with that. Salt feels like flavor in the way cocaine seems like pleasure. It’s a big high, but it’s a false high. I am eating less salt and enjoying food way much more. Simplicity is great. When you don’t feel the need for your senses to always be hypercharged, you start to develop a taste for true food.
I’ll give you an example: I’ve got to eat more vegetables. I mean, we all do. But I’ve never liked them. These days I find that one of the ways I enjoy them most is raw.
Debbie: Oh no, don’t tell me you’re a raw-food Hollywood type?
James: I like raw food, but as a diet? I think that’s called anorexia.
Debbie: This ain’t health food, but the fish and chips might be up your alley.
James: Now that’s the kind of thing you’d have in New England. Oh, my God, they have lemon meringue. ( Turns to server) SAVE THAT FOR ME.
Debbie: So did the dish transport you?
James: Is this good fish and chips? Not like it is in New England, where it’s wrapped in newspaper and doused in malt vinegar. I think it’s a little over-battered. But I’m not mad at it, either. The bottom line is: Who doesn’t like fried food? It’s delicious. I could eat 50 chicken wings at a barbecue. I’m not saying it’s any good for you.
( Dessert — Woods’ reserved lemon meringue pie — arrives)
James: Now this … this is so good. You can have one bite.
Debbie: Just one?
James: How great is it? I like that it’s bitter and not too sweet.
Debbie: Ha! I agree, but I am only judging based on a single spoonful.
James ( flagging down server): Excuse me, can I get more meringue?
Debbie: I thought it would be an impossible task to get a visitor on the Strip to dine in a suburban mall. Would you say it was worth the trip?
James: If you look at the food here, it’s pretty salty and kind of hot to the tongue. What for? To act as a lubricant for beer-drinking. And that’s okay. If I come to a place like this, the only thing I am judging is whether or not I can enjoy good drinks with good people. And by that standard, I had fun.
Public School 702 at Downtown Summerlin, 702.749.3007, psontap.com