Once upon a time, the story goes, a Chinese household god got fed up with humanity and asked the head gods in heaven to destroy the world.
Some of the other gods sorta liked us Earthlings, though, and urged the would-be destroyers to visit Earth in person to see things first-hand. These same sympathetic gods also warned our planet of the impending arrival of the Big Boys, and politely suggested that it might be a good idea for folks to clean up their act, but quick.
Humanity did just that, settling all of its business and personal affairs--and then it whipped up a spectacular banquet to welcome the potentially destructive deities. The gods fell for it, and decided to let the earth alone. And that, tradition has it, was the first Chinese New Year. Well, what the heck. At least it wasn't invented by greeting-card manufacturers like some holidays I could mention. . . .
In any case, the Chinese New Year is upon us, starting Thursday. Probably most Chinese restaurants in town plan some sort of special banquet, and in my experience these banquets are often extremely good--better sometimes than the usual food served by the same establishments. (It's almost as if everybody makes a special effort, just, you know, in case those gods are still lurking around somewhere wondering if they might not have been too soft on us the first time.)
Here are four who have taken the trouble to inform me of their plans: Genghis Cohen in Hollywood offers an eight-course, $35-per-person menu with "Sichuan bunny" as the main course--this New Year marks the commencement of the Year of the Rabbit. For non-rabbit-eaters, incidentally, plenty of other food will be available--and the Ming Yee Chinese Lion Dancers will perform. . . . Joss Restaurant and Dim Sum Bar, about to open on the west end of the Sunset Strip, will offer nine courses (roast suckling pig, five-willow fish and longevity pasta with clams in black bean sauce among them) plus a glass of champagne for $38, also on the 29th. . . . Madame Wu's Garden in Santa Monica holds a $50-a-head benefit dinner for the Loretta Wu Wong Scholarship Fund on Thursday, and then a $25-a-head Peking duck dinner (wine included) from Friday through Feb. 3. . . . And Ho Toy in Van Nuys charges $25 for seven courses (including dim sum appetizers and crispy duck with plum and ginger sauce) from Thursday through Feb. 8. . . . The coming year, Chinese-wise, will be 4685, incidentally--but, hey, who's counting?
THE GOOD GUYS: S.O.S. (Share Our Strength), the nationwide organization of restaurants helping to fight hunger both in the U.S. and overseas through funding and public information programs, is moving from Washington to Denver. The organization has member restaurants in 28 states, with our own state accounting for the largest number by far--66 (compared with second-place Missouri's 19). L.A. area establishments that belong to the organization, according to the winter 1987 "News From S.O.S." newsletter, are: Angeli, At Marty's, Bentley's, Bernard's, Cafe Beignet, Carlos & Charlie's, Chinois on Main, Fiasco, Five Crowns, Genghis Cohen, Gladstone's 4 Fish, Gulliver's, the Hamburger Hamlet group, the Hard Rock Cafe, Hugo's, Hymie's Fish Market, Jacopo's, Jimmy's, La Dolce Vita, La Petite Chaya, La Toque, Lawry's the Prime Rib, Le Chardonnay, Madame Wu's, Morton's, Orleans, Parkway Grill, Scandia, Seventh Street Bistro, Spago, St. Estephe, Sunset Marquis, the Bel Age restaurant, the Bistro and the Bistro Garden, Border Grill, City Restaurant, the Grill, Metropole, Tam O'Shanter, Tommy Tang's, Valentino, Vickman's, the Westside Broiler and the Westwood Marquis. If you patronize these restaurants, tell them why you're doing so. Non-member places can contact S.O.S. at its new address, 475 17th St., Suite 732, Metro Bank Building, Denver, Colo. 80202. These people are serious, and they do good work.
WHO'S WHERE AND WHAT'S WHAT: Robert Jay Nathan has taken over the kitchen at the Bel Air Sands, succeeding Annie Rousseau. He has most recently cooked at the Orchards Inn and Grill in Sedona, Ariz., and before that at the Anderson House and Petit Cafe in Scottsdale. . . . Roland Muller, formerly with Cafe Promenade, Le Bistro, and Le Marmiton in Los Angeles, is the new executive chef at the Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma. . . . Keith Roberts, who was the last executive chef at the now-defunct Antoine's in Beverly Hills, has opened his own restaurant, Parvenu, in Altamonte Springs (near Orlando), Fla. . . . Patout's in West Los Angeles launches a Cajun brunch next Sunday, featuring such dishes as smothered quail with Cajun hash browns, crawfish omelets and grillades and grits. . . . Greg's Grill offers upscale fast food in Pacific Palisades, including burgers, quesadillas , souvlaki and hot apple pie. Greg's is under the same ownership as Angie's in West L.A.