The closure of Melbourne theatre restaurant Dracula's in 2017 was met with an outpouring of nostalgic grief, albeit from crowds who hadn't ridden the roller-coaster inside for spooky shows and steaks for years, even decades.
Presumably they will be first in line on November 19 when the Carlton venue reopens as Panda Hot Pot, a Sichuan soup specialist offering family-friendly stage shows every night.
It's a serious undertaking. Investor Yi Li bought the premises for $10.3 million, pledging to keep it in the food space. The rebuild has taken two years, with the 268-seat space now featuring a 1.5-tonne floating dragon instead of ghouls.
Chefs and key ingredients will be flown in from Sichuan province, where the Panda brand was formed in 2015 (there are now 400 outlets globally).
As well as the signature hot pots (spicy 12-hour broths, with a tamer tomato or mushroom option into which you'll dunk thinly sliced premium beef, pureed prawns, meat skewers, meatballs and vegetables), there will be fried snacks and offal dishes.
And while the entertainment program is still being finalised, a spokesperson has promised shows will be "performed every evening and range from traditional face-changing operas, kung fu tea shows, lion dances and family-friendly panda shows".
There are no group minimums and the menu will remain a la carte, making this a hot value dinner-and-a-show proposition.
Panda Hot Pot will open daily 10.30am-late from November 19 at 100 Victoria Street, Carlton, 03 9888 9899, pandahotpot.com.au.