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   September 2004


She put The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago on the nation’s culinary map, but after 20 years Sarah Stegner has finally checked out to open her own restaurant. Stegner and George Bumbaris, the hotel’s longtime executive chef, have bought the space housing Stonefish Grill in suburban Northbrook. They plan to convert the facility into a 170-seat dining room by late September; the restaurant wasn’t christened at press time. Stegner and Bumbaris will work in the kitchen; Stegner’s husband, Rohit Nambiar, a Four Seasons hotel veteran, will run the dining room. “This will be a casual place,” Stegner was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune. “We’ve been doing fine dining forever, and it’s time to have some fun…It’ll still be my style.” One backer is television documentary producer Bill Kurtis, who will supply grass-fed beef from his Kansas ranch | Roland Liccioni (Les Nomades), Arun Sampanthaviviat (Arun’s), and Howard Davis (Marché, Red Light) have opened their French-Vietnamese eatery LeLan in River North. Assisting in the kitchen are chefs Andy Motto (Charlie Trotter’s, The French Laundry) and Nick Van Wassenhove (La Vita) | After 30 years behind the stove at Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights, chef/owner Pierre Pollin has tossed in his toque and gone fishing—literally. Pollin and his co-owner and wife, Judith, headed west to start their retirement with a fly-fishing trip to Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. The Pollins sold their acclaimed establishment to former sous-chef Michael Maddox | Tsuki, a Japanese restaurant and lounge, has opened on the North Side. Chef Toyoji Hemmi (Hatsuhana, Mirai Sushi) has developed a “share-style” menu of both Japanese- and American-influenced dishes such as crunchy spicy tuna roll, hirame ceviche roll, chaliapin steak, and mozzarella agedashi | Views of the Oak Street Beach and the Magnificent Mile are an important part of the ambience at the landmark Drake Hotel’s new steakhouse, Drake Bros. Steaks Chicago, in the former Oak Terrace space.


Cafe Annie is moving, but only a few feet away. Robert del Grande’s pioneering Southwestern restaurant is moving to a freestanding building in the parking lot of its current Fashion Square home | Alan Ashkinaze has left Trevisio for the San Francisco–based Aqua group. He’ll man the stove at the new St. Regis in Laguna Beach. Lance Fegen replaces him at Trevisio while continuing to run his home kitchen at Zula | Jason Gould, chef de cuisine at Aries, is leaving to come up with plans for his own place | Mantra, the new Asian fusion restaurant on Main Street that sets the imagination reeling, has hired veteran pastry chef Armando Ramirez. Ramirez, whose local experience includes Backstreet Cafe, Hard Rock Café, and Rickshaw Far East Bistro, joins Mantra chef/co-owner Michael Potowski | Mickey McPhail is now executive pastry chef of Las Canarias, the restaurant in La Mansion del Rio in San Antonio. He will also oversee the pastry at Pesca on the River, in the new Watermark Hotel & Spa. McPhail spent time at the Four Seasons and Omni Hotel in Houston.


Gino Angelini (Angelini Osteria) has opened La Terza in the renovated boutique hotel on W. Third Street now known as The Orlando. The executive chef is the youthful Jason Travi (ex-Opaline). The menu is centered around items from the woodburning rotisserie and grill | The Oberst family has sold its Du-par’s Restaurants, classic coffee shops revered for 66 years by generations of Angelenos for their satisfying comfort food, to W.W. “Biff” Naylor (Tiny Naylor’s). Biff’s daughter, Jennifer Naylor, the executive chef and general manager of Wolfgang Puck’s Granita, will tweak the sauces and stocks | After seven years at the downtown seafood restaurant Water Grill, Michael Cimarusti has moved on. He plans to open a more intimate and personal fish restaurant of his own, not yet named in Hollywood, in the former Patina space on Melrose | Opaline on Beverly Boulevard has morphed into Café Capo, a sister restaurant to Capo in Santa Monica, which features upscale Italian cuisine. Executive chef Bruce Marder supervises both locations | Rika Restaurant and Diamond Lounge joins the restaurant collection at the Plaza at Sunset Millennium in West Hollywood. The menu provides traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine. The “progressive” sushi chef is Tracy Griffith (ex-Tsunami), the first female graduate of the California Sushi Academy. Her sushi rolls use highly nontraditional ingredients like foie gras and bacon | Opah Restaurant & Bar has spawned a third location in The Market Place in Tustin. The menu of executive chef and partner Marc Cohen consists of California cuisine with an emphasis on seafood | Jacques Lachkar developed a loyal following in the San Fernando Valley during the years he managed Le Petit Bistro. He’s now out on his own—joined by his wife, Malena—with Le Petit Jacques Café on the site of the departed August Chris Café in Sherman Oaks. The French bistro cooking (think fillets of sand dabs) features Maine lobster with frites on Monday and Tuesday evenings | Gregory Short, opening chef at The Loft at the Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, has relocated to San Francisco as chef de cuisine at Masa’s at Hotel Vintage Court | Stepping into the kitchen of Hush in Laguna Beach is Phillip Kaufman (ex–L’Auberge de Sedona), whose contemporary California cuisine includes such dishes as lobster-crayfish macaroni and cheese. His wife, Lee Ann Kaufman, oversees Hush’s extensive cellar of rare and unusual vintages | Chloe co-executive chef Jeff Osaka has been bought out by partner Christian Shaffer. Shaffer continues to run the kitchen of the small fine-dining restaurant in Playa del Rey with help from new chef de cuisine Collin Crannell, the former executive chef at Oceanfront at Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica.


After declaring that three operations were too much, Brad Hollingsworth (Clancy’s, Monkey Hill) has closed his once popular Lee Circle Creole restaurant in the Hotel Le Cirque. Executive chef Scott Snodgrass has taken over the kitchen at Clancy’s; Steve Manning is returning from New York to run the food operation at Monkey Hill | Larkin Selman has been replaced at Café Atchafalaya by Leon Courtney. The Garden District restaurant, owned by Iler Pope, is dedicated to real Southern food | Mr. John’s Steak & Seafood on St. Charles Avenue is now home to executive chef Christian Rossit, who comes from Venice, Italy. His résumé includes kitchens in his native Italy as well as in the United States | New on the Metairie scene is the sleek Café East, run by Steve Occhipinti. Michael Chan is executive chef | The glamorous La Louisiane, founded in 1881, has reopened after renovations by new owner Brett Smith (Louis XV). A new menu of contemporary regional fare includes the likes of bourbon-marinated hanger steak | Upstairs at Mimi’s is a new tapas eatery on Royal Street. Chef/owner Joachin Rodas has created a casual atmosphere similar to that in the bars along the Ramblas in Barcelona.


Rising Star Chef Willis Loughhead of Bizcaya Grill at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove will be joining fellow Rising Star Chef Gabriel Kreuther in New York as the Executive Sous Chef for the new Museum of Modern Art restaurant called The Modern. The restaurant, located at 9 West 53rd Street, is scheduled to open in late November. | Experience the creative forces of seven up-and-coming chefs at an elegant dinner at Oceana restaurant in New York City. Participating chefs include Cornelius Gallagher and David Carmichael of Oceana; Wylie Dufresne of WD-50; Brad Thompson of Mary Elaine's at the Phoenician; Shea Gallante of Cru; Brian Bistrong of The Harrison; and Johnny Iuzzini of Jean Georges Restaurant. Tuesday, October 19, 2004 at Oceana - 55 East 54th St. Multi-course tasting menu, including wines is $175 per person. Call to reserve at 212-759-5941 | Sant Ambroeus bakery and restaurant, which moved from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village earlier this year, will open a second branch in its original venue. A Fauchon outpost occupied the space for several years | Fresh from Joseph’s (formerly known as Citarella The Restaurant), Brian Bistrong has been named executive chef at the popular Harrison in Tribeca. Bistrong replaces Joseph Campanaro, who is now in place at Pace, also in Tribeca. Pace, scheduled to open this fall, is the latest venture of partners Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams, who also own Harrison, Red Cat, and Mermaid Inn | Town & Country. Geoffrey Zakarian is moving forward with Country, a spacious casual eatery slated to open in January that is being designed by David Rockwell. It will be housed in the renovated Carlton Hotel, which is located near the Empire State Building. John Johnson remains in day-to-day charge of Zakarian’s acclaimed Town restaurant | More cheese, please. Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village, which sets the standard for exquisite cheese selections, is to move across the street, thereby doubling its inventory | Il Mulino multiplies. Owners Gino and Fernando Masci are cloning their beloved Greenwich Village Italian eatery faster than you can say porcini ravioli with truffle cream sauce. Last month, they opened the doors in Roslyn Heights, Long Island. Later this fall, they plan to open an outpost in Las Vegas, at the Forum Shops of Caesar’s Palace. These join their existing outposts in Tokyo and Dallas | Kalustyan’s Masala Café has abbreviated its name to Kalustyan’s Café and has hired former Tabla sous-chef Mohan Ismail to preside over a menu that makes liberal use of exotic seasonings and spices supplied by its namesake store just down the block. Think aleppo-pepper glazed tuna carpaccio with edamame and candied citrus garnish, or sliced Vietnamese-style strip steak with cinnamon and white cardamom sauce. Pastry-chef-about-town Jehangir Mehta of Aix consults on desserts | Restaurateur Roy Welland, who owns the space that formerly housed Washington Park, plans to reopen it as Cru in a few months with chef Shea Gallante, former chef de cuisine at Bouley. Among the dishes Gallante expects to serve is one that he is calling, in a master of understatement, “liver and onions.” It is made from sautéed foie gras, sweet Riesling-onion jus, and onion ice cream, the last made à la minute in a high-tech Pacojet blender. Meanwhile, Washington Park’s former chef, Jonathan Waxman, is cooking in the casual Italian mode at Barbutto in Greenwich Village. Welland is involved in that project as well | Vicki Freeman and chef Marc Meyer, who own Five Points in NoHo, have signed a lease on a Chelsea space. They plan to open a larger, as-yet unnamed restaurant later this year, where Meyer will continue to serve the hearty new American cuisine for which he is known. The restaurant will feature dishes from a wood-burning rotisserie and a daily changing menu | Cool ocean breeze. Pacific Grill is the new aqua-themed and-colored spot in the South Street Seaport. Chef Yogesh Sodhi set sail across the globe before anchoring at Pier 17. His travels are evident in the eclectic, Pan-Asian menu, which features such dishes as honey-glazed tempura shrimp, duck leg confit with pomegranate molasses, and lobster summer rolls with a trio of dipping sauces | Restaurateur Alex Freij, of industry(food) reveals his high hip quotient yet again at his new Diner 24 in Chelsea, which is swathed in retro-cool 1970s-era beige leather, wood, and stone (with a little Palm Springs thrown in). The delicious food, served 24 hours a day, is the creation of chef Vincent Nargi. Breakfast offers include outstanding lemon-ricotta-poppy pancakes and potato-leek-cheese hash with duck confit. At lunch, buffalo-chicken dumplings and duck meatloaf with peas and carrots are on the menu. There are a dozen milkshake flavors, too | Michael Ayoub, of Cucina fame in Park Slope, plans to open Fornino later this year in Williamsburg. A brick oven will play the starring role in the menu, and some of the organic produce will come directly from Ayoub’s home garden in Southampton, New York | Close to home. Maurizio Trattoria is a new Italian restaurant around the corner from the James Beard House. Chef Maurizio Michi and his wife and partner Nandita have created a homey, welcoming space with deliciously straightforward country Italian cooking. Michi previously worked at Da Silvano and in his family-owned Bice restaurants | Mauro Mafrici, who made memorable gnocchi at I Trulli, is opening Lo Scalco (“the carver”) later this year in trendy Tribeca | Harold Moore, former chef at Montrachet, was recently hired as chef de cuisine of March on the Upper East Side. March, a New American restaurant co-owned by executive chef Wayne Nish and restaurateur Joseph Scalice, celebrated its 14th anniversary last month. March on.


Susur chef owner Susur Lee is set to open his new, more casual restaurant, Lee’s. Lee has renovated a former furniture store next door to his booming restaurant on King Street West. The menu will be executed by current Susur sous-chef Jason Carter. Lunch will be served | Foodies are buzzing about the sudden departure of J.P. Challet from the cozy Bouchon Bistro & Wine Bar. Challet opened the Wellington Street East restaurant with partners Brian Reeves and Laura Helwig almost two years ago. Recently he also signed on as executive chef at The Fifth supper club in Clubland in a part-time gig replacing Marc Thuet. Perhaps wearing two toques was too much. Certainly Challet’s culinary interests lay beyond cassoulet. “I love bistro-style cuisine, but I have to admit that with haute cuisine, I can express my creativity a lot more,” says Challet | The new math: Seven Numbers times two equals more fun. The Marinuzzi clan is opening a second location of their popular and boisterous Italian restaurant on Danforth Avenue, in the former Dark City coffee roastery. Mother Rosa, sons Vito and Tony, plus a cousin will split their time between the new spot and the Eglinton West original | The new Room Service promises to appeal to late-night diners who want more than a bowl of noodle soup in Chinatown. The fine-dining restaurant is part of Room 471, the tiny Richmond Street nightclub. Offering a simple Italian menu—penne vodka, gnocchi with four cheeses—from midnight until 5 a.m., Room Service is the brainchild of Fabio Vacca, until recently the wine steward at celebrity hangout Sotto Sotto (owned by his sister Marisa Rocca). The menu is available Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays.



Philip A. Mahl (ex–La Grenouille, Per Se) has joined the culinary team of Tony Esnault at The Dining Room of The Ritz-Carlton.

Sonoma County, CA

The 9th Annual Grape to Glass Weekend in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. August 20-22, 2004. Canoe down the scenic Russian River, bike ride through the rolling vineyards, taste wine with the winemakers and growers as you learn about life in the Russian River area. Delight in delicious brunches and a down-home barbecue featuring some of the area's best chefs. Visit or call 707-521-2535 for ticket information and additional details.