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RESTAURANT NOTEBOOK

Can Rosalie's Succeed Where 385 North Fell on Its Souffle?

December 06, 1987|COLMAN ANDREWS

385 North is no more. The big, contemporary-style restaurant on N. La Cienega Boulevard, which opened with great fanfare in February of 1984, has turned into Rosalie's--a Southern California branch (or rather reinterpretation) of the popular San Francisco restaurant of the same name. Rosalie's will be operated by Bill Belloli, with Rick O'Connell (who is a woman) as executive chef, both of whom serve the same functions at the Bay Area original. A co-owner of 385, Don Salk, describes Rosalie's menu as "sort of a cross between the Ivy's and Trumps' in feeling, but of course very much its own thing."

Salk and Stanley Kandel, two South Bay dentists, opened 385 fresh from their success as backers of Spago--this time with noted chef Roy Yamaguchi and attorney Tom Martin as fellow general partners, and with a host of limited partners including some Spago repeats and some newcomers. (Kandel is now about to open Tamayo in East Los Angeles, with a different group of partners entirely.) Salk is reluctant to discuss the reasons for the conversion to Rosalie's, but says, "We were very happy with the restaurant, but like some movies, it was a critical success but not the hottest possible box office. Obviously, we needed to change." And, he adds, "I really don't think the concept was right for Roy's cuisine."

Yamaguchi himself says, "385 was really a very good concept, and I really don't have a single negative thing to say about it. As far as I'm concerned, it was a very, very big success--a great venture all around. We did tremendous volume. But its size was ultimately its downfall, I think. It was so big that the profit margins were inevitably small."

He has definite plans of his own, Yamaguchi continues, but he can't reveal anything about them at this time. "I'm pursuing a project that will let me open between one and five restaurants in the next five years or so," he says. "I've been able to maneuver myself into being head of a group, in which I'll be a limited partner. It's a good opportunity for me. In the past four years, I think I've matured a lot in cooking and business knowledge both, but at 385 I haven't really been able to expand and put my new knowledge to work. This new thing will let me do that."

Will his new enterprise at least keep him in the Los Angeles area? "I can't even tell you that," Yamaguchi replies. Then he relents: "Well," he admits, "at least one of the places I'm working on will probably open in L.A."

NEW MERCHANT EYES: Hal Frederick, former co-owner of the long-defunct Robert's and ex- maitre d'hotel at the West Beach Cafe, both in Venice, has taken over management of that same community's Merchant of Venice. There is already a new chef and a new menu, Frederick says, and "somewhat of a new look." A complete redesign of the place, by Alway Designs, is promised by around the first of the year. Among other things, he adds, there will be a new bar.

RESTAURANT NOTES FROM ALL OVER: Bice, New York's newest super-popular Italian trenderia and itself an outpost of the 61-year-old Bice in Milan, plans to open a Beverly Hills branch, on or near Rodeo Drive, by July. Adam Tihany, who designed the New York Bice (and who has his own trendy Italian place in Manhattan, Remi), will design this one as well. ( Nota bene , though: Despite common press references to the original Bice as "a Milanese trattoria ," it is in fact a ristorante, not a trattoria , and is famous for its Tuscan, not Milanese, specialties.) . . .

Warner LeRoy's extravagant Potomac restaurant in Washington, opened 15 months ago as unquestionably the flashiest eating place in the nation's capital, closed its doors suddenly a few weeks back, apparently due to serious financial disputes with its landlord. LeRoy has filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, claiming that "fraudulent and outrageous" fees demanded by owners of the property have left the enterprise broke. LeRoy's two famous New York properties, Maxwell's Plum and Tavern on the Green, are not affected. . . .

Claude Rouas, owner of Auberge de Soleil in the Napa Valley, has bought the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito. . . .

And this sad note: 86-year-old Antoine Magnin, proprietor of the legendary L'Ami Louis in Paris, died in his sleep on Nov. 14. The bistro, which inspired an "homage" called Chez Louis in New York City, was purchased last year by Thierry de la Brosse, a longtime Magnin customer, who intended to preserve it as it was--but Magnin himself continued to be present almost every day. The restaurant will remain open under De la Brosse's direction.

NOSH NOTES: The Newporter Resort in Newport Beach has reopened its popular Wine Cellar Restaurant, marking the completion of a $25-million hotel renovation project. . . .

Jimmy's in Beverly Hills offers special holiday dinners from Dec. 21-24 and again on Dec. 26. . . .

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