La Toque, Ken Frank's highly acclaimed French restaurant on the downstream end of the Sunset Strip, has filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code. Frank took the action in mid-February, and has since been working with his purveyors, he says, to meet his financial obligations.
Meanwhile, his ample constituency will be happy to hear, the restaurant remains open for business as usual--which is fine with me, since La Toque is one of the true originals on the local restaurant scene and since Frank's talent and integrity are substantial. (He also consistently offers one of the best cheese selections in the city, reason enough to wish him continued success.)
Frank blames his difficulties on liabilities he inherited when he bought the restaurant, and he says his long illness two years ago--he was struck with a rare form of temporary paralysis--made things harder still.
"And honestly," he says, "I made some mistakes."
He adds: "I run a good little restaurant, and I run it at a profit. But this is the year I find out who my friends are."
NEW STUFF: Alain has just opened in Tarzana, featuring French food in a sort of haute -bistro style. Fans of the late Au Chambertin in Santa Monica might be interested to learn that Alain's chef is Christy Yen, a veteran of that establishMent's kitchen, and that another Au Chambertin alumnus, Tan Huynh, is the manager. . . . Cal (Buster) Naylor of the Tiny Naylor family has launched Buster's in Buena Park, dishing up "food and fun for the whole family." . . . James Dings, former sous-chef at the Hotel Meridien in New Orleans, has been named executive chef at the new Alicante Princess Hotel--which is not in Alicante, Spain, but in Garden Grove, Calif. . . . The Beachside Bar and Cafe has just opened in Goleta, next door to the University of California at Santa Barbara. It is said to be the only Santa Barbara-area restaurant actually on the beach. . . . The Mon Kee Chinese seafood restaurant chain has forged a new link in La Jolla, and plans yet another in the Topanga Plaza shopping center. . . . Proprietors of the Beverly Hills edition of Ruth's Chris Steak House open their first expansion until this week in Phoenix. . . . And the Old House is new (which doesn't sound quite right, but is) in Monterey, on the site of the former Gallatin's. The Picot family, owners of three noted restaurants in Florida (including the Down Under in Fort Lauderdale), are behind the place.
CHANGES: Jeremiah Tower has resigned his position as executive chef at Berkeley's Santa Fe Bar & Grill to devote more time to his other Bay Area establishment, Stars in San Francisco. He reportedly will be replaced in Berkeley by Amaryll Schwertner and Jim Moffatt, formerly of Square One and the Old Poodle Dog (both in San Francisco), respectively. . . . George Badonsky's Maxim's on Astor in Chicago, formerly Maxim's of Chicago, and never any relation to the original Paris Maxim's (even though its interior was copied after that establishment), has gone out of business. . . . And news in this column a few weeks back of Jonathan Waxman's latest project in New York, a contemporary French provincial restaurant called Chez Hulot, was edited to leave out the names of the former Californian's two associates in the place: They are gentleman wine importer Melvyn Master (also teamed with Waxman in Jams and Bud's) and Jams maitre d'hotel Gerard Oliver. "The whole thing is really Gerard's more than anybody's," Waxman adds.
EUROPEAN WINE & FOOD: If you travel at least once in a while to Europe, and if you eat and drink when you get there--or maybe even if you just like to dream about traveling to Europe--you might be very pleased with a newish publication called European Wine & Food, published in London 10 times a year and sent to interested Americans for $38 annually. I've seen a number of upscale food-and-wine-oriented travel newsletters in the past few years, but this is one of the best--well-written, surprisingly up-to-the-minute and usually in tune with my own perceptions (which, of course, is the highest praise I can offer). The February issue, for instance, includes a review of Alain Dutournier's new Carre des Feuillants, the most talked-about restaurant in Paris right now (and a place that opened only in January); notes on dining and shopping in Munich; a hand-lettered "Post card from Tuscany" by Leslie Forbes; a review of the Ettington Park hotel near Stratford-on-Avon; a piece on lunching in London, and a sensible piece on Chateau d'Yquem. If this sounds like your kind of reading material, you may contact the Southwest Press, Southwest House, Weston Road, Bath BA1 2XU, England.