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    May 2004


Pluton has opened in River North, the namesake restaurant of French chef Jacky Pluton, who will continue to oversee his more informal Jacky’s Bistro in suburban Evanston. Pluton, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, is offering European and Asian-influenced modern American dishes, such as creamless wild mushroom soup with oxtail ravioli, Maine lobster salad with black-ink vinaigrette, bone marrow–crusted beef tenderloin, and white chocolate–coconut pyramid with fruit minestrone | Robert Kerley says he feels he’s experiencing the luck of the Irish with his appointment as executive chef at Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant. While owners Siobhan and Brendan McKinney perform traditional Irish airs, Kerley will be dishing out Irish specialties (like lamb stew) as well as nontraditional dishes (like marinated salmon fillet with tapenade) | Joncarl Lachman has relocated to run the kitchen at Urban Epicure, a new gourmet marketplace and cafe in Andersonville. Lachman, who trained under Anne Rosenzweig at Inside Restaurant in the Big Apple, will also teach cooking classes at Urban Epicure.


Ba Ky restaurant on Bellaire Boulevard has been reinvented. Now called Anh Hong Restaurant, it features Vietnamese do-it-yourself cooking | Pang Tai’s Stirfry Bistro is set to open on the West Side, with Dawn Batsche doing the interiors | Little Cafe Compliqué, a popular fixture on Westheimer in the Montrose area, is taking over Arturo Boada’s downtown Century Diner | A new sign has gone up on the old Grotto locale on Woodway: look for Mi Cocina later this spring | Realtor Charles Cohen has partnered with Mary Jo Caya (A Fare Extraordinaire) to open the 75-seat Cafe Extraordinaire in the Decorative Center. The executive chef is Francis Walters | Executive chef Tommy Childs again presides at the Bistro Lancaster. He had been at Benjy’s | Lance Youngs has departed the Rainbow Lodge for the Kiepersol Bed & Breakfast in Tyler, Texas, where he’s a co-owner. Matt Maroni replaces him at Rainbow | Mike Potowski has left Rickshaw to join another Japanese restaurant, now in the planning stages downtown. Dawn McCutcheon, formerly with the St. Regis Hotel, has joined Rickshaw as director of catering.


Bi-coastal. Floridian superchef Norman Van Aken has brought his New World Cuisine to West Hollywood with the opening of the $4-million Norman’s at The Sunset Millennium, the signature restaurant in this major commercial and residential development. The $1 million, glass-curtained kitchen is visible to most guests, who can watch chef de cuisine Craig Petrella (ex-Norman’s, Coral Gables, Florida) do his thing | Laguna Beach finally has a steakhouse with the arrival of Nancy Wilhelm’s Tabu Grill. Chef Jeff Platt (ex-Napa Rose) also serves such seafood entrées as pan-seared petrale sole with toasted almond cake | Less than one month after its long-delayed opening, chef Jonathan Pflueger has left Hush | The venerable Gustaf Anders in Costa Mesa, the only Swedish/Scandinavian fine-dining establishment in SoCal, served its last aquavit after a 23-year run. Chef Ulf Anders Strandberg and personable manager William Gustaf Magnuson have retired and returned to their native Sweden. Hej då!


Allison Vega, who opened the city’s first tapas bar,Vega’s Tapas Café, is leaving the country for Antigua. She will, however, serve as a consultant for the new owner, Glen Hogh, a longtime employee. Hogh plans on expanding the restaurant but keeping the Spanish/Mediterranean—focused cuisine. Vega will move with her husband, Andrew Knoll, who was until recently chef de cuisine at Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico. At Delmonico, Shane Prichett, executive sous-chef at Emeril’s in the Warehouse District, has replaced Knoll | Odd hours work magic for some folks. Basil Leaf has started opening at 2:30 p.m. to catch the late-lunch business and early-dinner | Hubert Sandot has sold his Martinique Bistro to Cristiano Raffignone (Cristiano’s). Most of the staff remain, including chef Kevin Reese.


Two for the price of one: culinary superstars Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Gray Kunz have partnered at Spice Market, the latest offering in the Meatpacking District. Kunz’s last turn at the stove was years ago at Lespinasse, and his return to the scene has been highly anticipated. The multilevel dining room, with its antique Indian decor, provides a dramatic backdrop to a menu of Asian “street food” that’s been very New Yorkified. Think Vietnamese spring rolls, shaved tuna with tapioca pearls in coconut, and chile-garlic egg noodles with seared shrimp. Stanley Wong (ex-TanDa) and pastry chef Pichet Ong run the kitchen day-to-day. Among Wong’s past credits is Vong in Hong Kong. Ong does dessert double duty, he’s also at Vongerichten’s 66 in TriBeCa | Oliviers & Company, the upscale Provençal company specializing in all things olive, has added an informal cafe to its SoHo store: La Table O & Co. Baker Pascal Rigo delivers first-rate salads and sandwiches, along with small plates such as baby lamb chops with ratatouille or semolina dumplings with truffle oil. Don’t miss his exquisite raspberry flan | Laurent Tourondel, chef of the late, lamented Cello, has opened the doors to his new space. Set in a beautiful modern room in Midtown, BLT Steak (previously Pazo) offers a knockout signature foie gras BLT, the best creamed spinach in town, Kobe flatiron steak, porterhouse for two, and more. Owner Jimmy Haber has big plans for the former AZ space as well. Stay tuned | For another Atkins-esque dining option, try Wolfgang Steakhouse, a new restaurant in what was Vanderbilt Station. A stunning Guastavino vaulted ceiling tries valiantly to detract from the plates, but good luck! Owner Wolfgang Zwiener was headwaiter at Brooklyn’s legendary Peter Luger for decades, so he knows a thing or two about steak | Confirmed Manhattanites who wouldn’t think of crossing the East River for a nice piece of meat now can get some in Midtown, where the Maspeth, Queens–based George O’Neill’s recently opened a branch | The Upper West Side has one more reason to cheer. Katy Sparks has taken over at Compass, following the departure of Mark Andelbradt. We adored Sparks’s elegant, personal cooking at Quilty’s in SoHo and intend to run, not walk, to sample her East Coast oysters in Gewürztraminer cream, pomegranate-barbecued foie gras on chickpea-coriander pancake, and pork tenderloin with spaetzle, onion-speck gratin, and sour cherry–lemongrass sauce. Apple strudel and caramel parfait with mango ravioli from pastry chef Marc Aumont prove the icing on the cake | Taboon, a new restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen from Israeli chef Haim Cohen, marries Middle Eastern flavors with the Mediterranean’s in such dishes as duck confit with Jerusalem artichokes and phyllo-wrapped shrimp. Cohen sometimes goes global, too, as in his calamari ceviche with bok choy and za’atar vinaigrette | Best brewer: Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver has been awarded the 2003 Semper Ardens Award for Beer Culture; he is the first non-Danish recipient ever. The award recognizes people and organizations for raising the cultural and culinary status of beer. Look for Oliver’s return visit to the Beard House this fall | Philippe LaJaunie has acquired the lease on the deli adjacent to his Les Halles. He plans to expand the restaurant and market this month | BLVD is a new restaurant-cum-nightclub in the Bowery. Julian Alonzo, an investor and consulting chef, will oversee the Latin Asian menu; co-chef Kristof Czartoryski will execute such dishes as red snapper ceviche with strawberries and persimmon and orange-crusted scallops with edamame–mint purée. Alonzo’s primary kitchen address remains Brasserie 81/2 | A new kind of dinner theater: through June, The Supper Club presents Chef’s Theater with a rotating cast of celebrity chefs—Jacques Pépin, Ed Brown, and Marcus Samuelsson among them. The stars—oops, we meant chefs—prepare a three-course meal on stage, interspersed with musical interludes from guest performers. The audience dines on the same dishes they watch being made onstage; their food is prepared by Rad Matmati, previously chef at the now-closed American Park at the Battery | Chef Jimmy Bradley and partner Danny Abrams have taken over the TriBeCa space that was, briefly, Plumeri. Bradley and Abrams—the team with perfect restaurant pitch behind Red Cat, The Harrison, and Mermaid Inn—plan to make it their first Italian eatery.


Jean-François Piège, former chef of Michelin three-starred restaurant Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée, is now heading the kitchens at Le Crillon in Place de la Concorde. He has barely opened, but already there’s three-star talk | Starbucks has finally opened its first cafe in Paris, the cafe capital of the world. The store on avenue de l’Opéra is equidistant from the Opera House and the Louvre, and judging from the crowd that lined up out the door the first week, Parisians are taking quickly to Frappuccinos. Brownies were selling out, as were muffins and crumbles, which were baked in little wooden boxes. Of course, Colette, the first-to-have-everything boutique on rue Saint-Honoré, is also serving Starbucks | Le Drugstore, a Champs-Elysées fixture since 1958, is back after two years of rebuilding. Architect Michele Saee included a take-out specialty food shop (the bread from Eric Kayser is great) and two restaurants, both under the creative eye of Alain Ducasse. One, Brasserie Le Drugstore, is open from breakfast to nightcap: the other, Marcel, is private | A surprise find is the elegantly cozy dining room in the new hotel Le Walt on avenue La Motte-Piquet, close to the Eiffel Tower and UNESCO. The food appeals to both French and American diners—and with good reason: the hotel’s owner is Pamela Chauve, a Texan in Paris | Angl’Opéra in the Hotel Edouard VII is the new restaurant from fusionist Gilles Choukron. As is true at Choukron’s Café des Delices, the food is surprising and idiosyncratic. For instance, salmon “a la plancha” turns out to be alternating rows of salmon and risotto paired with oysters and peanuts in four porcelain spoons and a little shake of warm coconut milk and mussel jus. The must-have dessert: lichees poached in Schwepps tonic water | The toques have turned at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s chic Paris outpost, Market. Eric Johnson, the chef-de-cuisine, has gone to Shanghai to open a Jean Georges restaurant, handing the whisk to Wim Van Gorp, who had opened with him, then left for the Michelin-starred Les Loges in Lyon. Suggestion: catch Gorp’s cooking soon. Who knows when Jean-Georges might recruit him to open in Timbuktu?


Terry Morrow is now executive chef at the Pala Mesa Resort in North County. Morrow comes to the resort by way of Live Fire in Yountville, California | Patrick Ponsaty has left El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. Gavin Keyson replaces him | James Footit, formerly of the Hotel Del Coronado, will head the culinary team at the new Estancia Resort and Spa in La Jolla. The signature restaurant is Adobe El Restaurante, which blends Southern California coastal cuisine with Mexican flavors | Riko and Kim Bartolome have opened Asia-Vous in Escondido. Bartolome came to fame at 150 Grand Cafe, then took the executive chef position at the W Hotel downtown. Expect classics with Bartolome’s signature Asian edge | Local freelance food writer Pat Stein, 66, died suddenly on January 24. She wrote extensively for the San Diego Union-Tribune food and home sections and for Copley Newspapers.


Toru Totoki, for 11 years the executive chef at Ginza Lecrin, has opened his own French restaurant in Ginza—Les Dix Temps (a play on Totoki’s name, which when written in Japanese characters, also means “ten hours”). The restaurant, mostly a long blond-wood counter, emphasizes organic ingredients | Tudor, the whiskey bar at the Radisson Miyako Hotel Tokyo that once offered 60 types of whiskey, has reopened as M Bar, this time with a similar number of shochu (also known as soju). The switch reflects Tokyo’s current shochu boom; shochu is a distilled Asian spirit not unlike Scotch that can be made from sweet potatoes, barley, buckwheat, or rice. All 61 varieties sold at M Bar come from small producers in the south of Kyushu, one of the five islands that make up Japan | Long fish—unagi (eel), anago (conger eel), hamo (pike eel), dojo (loach), and the like—are the focus at Hachi, in Nishi-Azabu. Chef Ryuta Ono prepares a single fish in various ways | The Polar Star, a cocktail made with Aquavit, green-apple syrup, and lemon juice, was what won Shinobu Ishigaki the 2002 Nippon Bartender’s Association competition. He has left Bar Matsuki to open his own bar, Ishi-no-Hana, in Shibuya.


Bridgehampton, Long Island
Alison on the Beach is relocating. Owner Alison Becker Hurt shuttered her Sagaponack location because of renovation complications. The eatery reopens this month in Bridgehampton, in the former 95 School Street restaurant space. Stuart Kreisler, who owned 95 School Street, is concentrating on his other restaurant, The Laundry, in nearby East Hampton.

Las Vegas
Get guidance on your ganache and tutoring for your torte at the World Pastry Forum Recreational Program! The 2004 World Pastry Forum Recreational Program will be held in Las Vegas on July 5 and 6, 2004. It is a series of six, two-hour classes taught by successful luminaries of the pastry world, including Biagio Settepani, of Bruno Bakery and Pasticceria Bruno in New York City and Jenifer Witte, Executive Pastry Chef at the AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Renoir, at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas. Participants will receive tickets to the 2004 Inniskillin Icewine World Pastry Team Championship on July 7 and 8. For more information and enrollment go to

Joël Robuchon is opening in Vegas. Yes, you heard right. He’s slated to open a restaurant in the ultraprivate Mansion at MGM Grand Hotel, a 30-villa enclave in the shadow of the monolith. The villas are reserved for special clients (aka big spenders) and celebrities. With a large enough line of credit, you too may be able to enter the fresh lemon–scented courtyard to sample Robuchon’s ethereal creations. But don’t even think about staying there.

Ojai, California
Husband-and-wife chefs Diane Forley and Michael Otsuka, who partnered in Verbena, are leaving the Big Apple. Otsuka has been named chef at Ojai Valley Inn and Spa; Forley will consult for the resort on special projects—cooking classes, the development of an herb garden, the spa menu, and the like.

Carlos Mendez is opening a second Coyote Crossing location, bringing his Mexican flair to West Chester, Pennsylvania.