by Melissa Griegel…

Stepping into The McKittrick Hotel at 542 W. 27th (between 10th and 11th) felt like sneaking into a speakeasy or being invited into a secret hidden private club. The signage is scant and there are people outside the large wooden doors holding clipboards to see if you are on the guest list. Once you are ushered inside, you take an old-fashioned lift up to the roof top where you wind your way through arcs of foliage over a wooden bridge to a bar and an outdoor seating area for cocktails. You are not sure what will happen next but wait with baited breath for this mysterious experience to begin.

When it was completed in 1939, The McKittrick Hotel was designed as a luxurious and decadent hotel. However, World War II broke out six weeks before the hotel was to be opened, and it was never finished or used as a hotel. The immersive theater group Emursive took over the space and now uses it for a full-service restaurant and bar and a variety of theater experiences. The most well-known of these is Sleep No More – an immersive play.

World-renowned illusionist Scott Silven did a run of his show At the Illusionist’s Table in 2017-2018, before taking it across the globe. In addition to this intimate show, Scott also does large-scale shows at venues such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Scott has returned to The McKittrick to host an evening of fine dining, whiskey-tasting, and storytelling, interwoven with mind-bending illusions and mystical mentalism.

Upon booking your reservation, you will be asked about any food allergies or dietary restrictions and for the names of the guests. They have a three set meals (beef/seafood, vegetarian, and vegan) and they will choose a three-course meal for individuals with items from those based on your preferences. There are two price points: for $295, you will get a three-course meal prepared by Executive Chef Pascal Le Seac’h, along with two whiskey pours selected by Silven to go with the evening’s Scottish theme. For an additional $100, you will also partake in the “Cloud Nine” wine tasting with specially-selected wines to accompany the courses. The ticket price includes all fees, taxes, and gratuities. All guests must be at least 16 or older to attend and there will be no late seating once dinner is under way. You can also purchase hot cocktails and other seasonal drinks from The Hideout’s Bar adjacent to the dining room prior to the show and dinner.

Once ushered inside, you are led to your seat at a beautifully-set long dining table set for 28 guests with Silven at the head. All guests are seated according to their place card. The room is dark, with the main lighting coming from the numerous candles that decorate the table. There is much to see as objects adorn the table, the walls, and hang from the ceilings. Silven looks very debonaire in his black jacket and pants and speaks soothingly and eloquently. He guides us through stories of his upbringing in the lowlands of Scotland where, he says, “myth and mystery is a big part of its history.” He talks lovingly of learning a few simple illusions from his grandfather and being intrigued by “the treasure trove of curiosities’ at his grandfather’s cottage. “My north star was set at that point,” he told me the next day when I interviewed him. “I was never influenced by magic, per se. I get my inspirations from art, music, and film. Storytelling is the key to all of my shows.”

Throughout the evening, Silven walks around the dining table, interacting with guests, guessing to our great surprise which numbers we chose, what postcards we selected, what we drew, what we whispered to our neighbors. He starts off with simple “mind-reading” tricks and moves on to more complex illusions involving more people around the table, building the show to a crescendo with a big reveal at the end. Silven takes breaks as the courses are served, giving you an opportunity to eat and mingle with guests. The food, wine, and whiskey was delicious, as was the conversation. I wish the eating portions of the evening were a bit longer, as my guest and I did feel a bit rushed to finish.

I got to sit down with Silven the morning after the show and ask him a bit more about his work over coffee, croissants, and tea sandwiches. He describes The Illusionist’s Table as “the most unforgettable dinner party you will ever have” and likened his theatrical show to playing a piece of jazz. “I know the beginning, middle, and end. But every night is a bit different. Like jazz, there is always a bit of improvisation mingled in between. I enjoy the beautiful alchemy of mixing different people together and seeing the results. This is a place of the unexpected; sharing of food is the oldest social ritual. I combine that with a unique and personal experience.”

In comparison to his large stage shows where the audience is more removed and witnessing Silven on a set, he says this is very different in that it is “very real.” “My stage shows are much more of a traditional stage show. What I do here is distill that experience to its very essence, so I feel it’s much more potent, much more immersive. You are really stepping into my world. It takes the audience deeper into the experience. You are drinking the whiskey from my childhood area. Each step of the show takes the audience deeper and deeper into the narrative.”

Silven said that there is a lot of preparation that goes into each show. “It is definitely a very involved show, so you really have to be present for all of it. I sit in the room for two hours before the show, I look at the empty seats, and try to get a sense of the people who will be there that evening.” I asked him if it was difficult to do such an intense show night after night. “I think what’s special about this, and doesn’t make it feel the same, is that I am personally connecting to those 28 people around the table; it feels so fresh for me every evening. You are not staring into a dark abyss in a large theater; you’re making eye contact and connecting with someone across the table. It really does feel like a special dinner party every evening. I am always aware of that. I pinch myself that I get to do this as a job and meet such interesting people.”

Having done this show for many years, Silven has been able to hone in on what illusions work well and resonate with people. He is also good at looking around the table and getting a sense of which people would be good to pick to engage with during the show. “Everyone has a natural rapport. That is what I am tapping into. The good thing about this setting is that there are so many people who come to this show who are introverted, who would maybe potentially hate the feeling of an immersive, interactive experience. But once you seat them at the table, the power of it feeling like a dinner party—you have a glass of champagne, a sip of whiskey. And then everyone is in it together. Once you start witnessing people experiencing these impossible moments, it is quite addictive, and you feel yourself wanting to experience them yourself.”

The show runs six nights a week, with only Tuesdays being dark. It will run at The McKittrick Hotel through April 2nd and tickets can be purchased at I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience—the unique space, the mystery, the food, and of course, the magnificent Scott Silven. I highly recommend The Illusionist’s Table. ****

Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography