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There Is Life After Midnight in Valley--If You Look for It

March 27, 1986|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Ever crave sushi after midnight? Need a will copied at 3 a.m.? Feel like pumping iron at dawn?

Sooner or later, most people are struck by urgent needs at impractical hours. Valleyites who have experienced this late-night angst may feel that only doughnut shops and 7-Elevens are open after midnight. North of Ventura Boulevard, the sidewalks seem pretty well rolled up for the night.

Yet things are seldom what they seem. Long after the sun goes down and the moon comes up, a number of San Fernando Valley emporiums go quietly about their business, disturbed by only the intermittent buzz of neon or the occasional rowdiness of a drunk.

Variety of Businesses

They range from gas stations to bowling alleys, gyms to trendy eateries and down-home diners. Some are tucked in sleepy mini-malls. Others sit squarely at busy intersections. But mostly, they are on main arteries, where they proclaim themselves with bright lights and filled parking lots.

Parameters had to be set here, so the focus was on unusual places and practical services. Restaurants had to serve past 1 a.m., and chains like Denny's were left out because, although there are a number in the Valley, most people know they are open all night.

At aptly named Midnight Rendezvous in Studio City, proprietor Hana Zawa, who also owns Sushi on Sunset and Cafe Sushi near the Beverly Center, serves up Franco-Japanese cuisine until 1:30 a.m., sushi until 2. Open just seven months, the place is trendy, young and loud, the sushi succulent and worth the trip even during more conventional hours.

With its muted pastel, stark design, and dance music that grows louder as the evening gets later, Midnight Rendezvous is at once stimulating and relaxing. Sushi mavens who belly up to the blond wood bar can watch iridescent orange-and-blue fish swim in an aquarium. Dinner patrons sink deep into couches and dine at low tables. There is a full bar, and Sunday through Thursday, a $12.95 eat-yourself-silly sushi special.

Late at night, the customers are mostly young nightclubbers, especially from nearby Sasch discotheque, says a 22-year-old waiter who wants to be an actor. Before 10 p.m. the clientele is older, and the music leans toward jazz.

Midnight Rendezvous, 11271 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. 760-2822.

Restaurateur John Makhani thought the Valley needed a "hip, trendy place for people who feel like a late dinner." So he hired a Northern Italian chef, decorated a restaurant in chrome, neon and granite, and dubbed it Prezzo.

From 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., the restaurant serves a light dinner, offering appetizers of oysters, minestrone and scampi (at $15.95, the most expensive late-dinner menu item), pastas, pizzas and salads. Patrons can choose outdoor dining on Ventura Boulevard, patio dining inside, or eat at the octagonal bar.

Prezzo, 13625 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 905-8400.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, once said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but it sure helps." Six years ago, a Denny's coffee-shop manager named Forrest E. Clemens bought his restaurant from the chain, put that saying on the menu and reopened as Twain's.

Word about his 24-hour coffee shop spread, and Twain's has thrived. At 3 a.m. on a weekend morning, customers may have a few minutes' wait for a seat. When they get there, they eat bacon and eggs, burgers, salads and sandwiches.

Says manager Idamae Becker, a 15-year veteran at the site: "It's kind of comforting to drive down the street at night and see the lights on, to know there's a place open."

Twain's, 12905 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 760-9577.

It's 3 a.m., and the needle's on empty, same as it has been for the past 10 miles. Lucky for you, the Valley has no dearth of 24-hour gas stations. Arco has 35, Unocal 25, Chevron 11 and Mobil, Shell and others all want to put a tiger in your tank. Many also have convenience stores.

All-night gas stations can be found, among other corners, at Reseda Boulevard and Oxnard Street in Reseda, White Oak Avenue and Burbank Boulevard in Encino and Devonshire Street and Woodman Avenue in Mission Hills.

Visit the Sherman Oaks Newsstand most nights between midnight and 6 a.m., and you're likely to meet Gary Jochimsen bundled up against the cold, reading a book. Jochimsen, who resembles a young Clint Eastwood, wears a button that says "Unemployed Actor" and hands out resumes in hopes of a break.

He sells mainly sex magazines at night. "That's why they're closest to the counter," Jochimsen jokes, surrounded by lurid covers. He prefers novels--and estimates that he has read about 275 in one year on the job.

An institution since 1948, the newsstand is one of two in the Valley open all night. The other is Victory Boulevard Newsstand, which sprawls along Victory and Van Nuys boulevards.

Gary Skybyrg, who sometimes works the late-night shift at the Victory stand, says the graveyard shift can be tough. "At night, we get some derelicts who just want hang out and read."

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