Elizabeth An rushed past an elevated glass platform, carrying floral arrangements to tables lined in white linen at AnQi Gourmet Bistro & Noodle Bar at South Coast Plaza. The high-end restaurant An operates is known as a venue for fashion shows, charity events and, Friday night, a concert.
The platform, adorned in scattered red rose petals, gleamed under spotlights. On this 66-foot runway, 11 artists from "American Idol" and "The Voice" performed covers and original songs on this night. Some won, some didn't. Some were finalists, some runners-up.
And, at 8 p.m., the restaurant's first and sold out "Jam Session" was the place where the singers headlined the show.
An, a strong supporter of the arts, fashion and music since opening AnQi in December 2009, said her runway-ready concept was designed for fashion shows where models could wear lavish showpieces and luxury clothing from South Coast Plaza boutiques. But An wanted also to bring her love of music to the runway by inviting talented musicians to entertain her diners.
She started in the restaurant business when she helped her family at House of An, which runs two San Francisco restaurants, Thanh Long and Crustacean. In 1997, An opened a second Crustacean in Beverly Hills. The restaurant drew and continues to draw musicians to perform for guests during dinner.
Billy Joel played the piano.
Patti LaBelle, Taylor Dayne and Joni Mitchell sang on the stage.
Robin Thicke danced between tables.
Each concert was so successful that An thought of bringing the same concept to her Orange County location, where patrons could eat dinner and enjoy a show.
"I love the arts and promoting young talent," said An, who divides her time between homes in Corona del Mar and Beverly Hills.
Minutes before the concert started Friday, An already considered the evening a success by having reality television singers present in her restaurant.
"We have to pump them up and show them it's a party," An said. "I want them to showcase fashion or music on the catwalk."
Bartenders shook up cocktails. Waiters rushed past, holding trays of the restaurant's famous garlic noodles. AnQi's dining room was aglow with red light.
Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart, top 10 alumni of "American Idol" season 10, appeared relaxed before their performance, mingling with dining patrons.
"Casey and I are very spontaneous," Reinhart, 23, said of the duo's casual approach to the concert. "There's not a lot of preparation."
"We practice on the bandstand," Abrams, 23, added.
Tanner James, who appeared on "The Voice," opened the show behind the piano, playing and singing "Have a Little Faith In Me."
Abrams and Reinhart followed the audience's cheers and performed her new song, "My Cake," with Abrams strumming the guitar.