Several Orange Countians have been nominated for the individual achievement awards to be presented April 22 at the Southern California Restaurant Writers' awards banquet, at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
Among the 15 Southern California nominees are Alan Greely of the Golden Truffle in Costa Mesa and Leo Holczer of Aurora in Fullerton, for chef of the year; Karel Vidlak of the Wine Cellar at the Newporter Inn in Newport Beach, for maitre d' of the year; and Michael Kang of Five Feet in Laguna Beach and Five Feet Too in Newport Beach, for restaurateur of the year.
COMING AND GOING: Byron Gemmell, late of Gemmell's in Costa Mesa, joins Chanteclair in Costa Mesa as chef this week, replacing Peter Serantoni who has been promoted to executive chef of El Torito Restaurants Inc.'s specialty division. . . . John Rader is now on board with Rex Chandler as host at Rex in Newport Beach, where he has charge of the Newport Oyster Bar & Grill.
OPENINGS: Yves Briee, a former partner in Le Biarritz in Newport Beach, has unwrapped Voila Bistro & Grill in Huntington Beach. The cuisine is "California-French" which, he explains, is based on French methods but "allows me to diversify" with, for instance, pastas, Thai and southwest accents. It's open for lunch Tuesdays through Fridays and for dinner nightly except Mondays, with Rochelle Robinson as chef and Briee's son, Steve, as sous chef. (714) 841-1166.
Thai Palace Cuisine recently opened in El Toro with an extensive menu of Thai dishes. Partners are Maria Nyhiem, who owned a restaurant in Thailand, and Christine Ngo. Reservations: (714) 859-9889.
TABLE TALK: Brandon's in the Beverly Heritage Hotel in Costa Mesa has introduced "California FreeStyle" cuisine.
Created by executive chef Frederick Hoeffler, it gives unique twists to classic methods of preparation. For instance, swordfish may be cut with the grain and roasted like beef, then served with a cabernet wine butter. Other new entrees include marinated grilled loin of lamb with a sauce of roasted peppers, shallots, garlic and zinfandel; and skewered grilled sea scallops with a lemon-chardonnay butter sauce.
You can enjoy complimentary samples in Brandon's lounge. Reservations: (714) 754-1303.
April highlights at Mr. Stox in Anaheim include an April 12 dinner with tastings of Clos Du Val wines, and an April 20 dinner at which the best dishes from trendy Los Angeles restaurants will be re-created (and served with wines from two new Napa Valley wineries). Information: (714) 634-2994.
Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m., Remick's in Irvine is offering samples of champagne from California vintners at $2 a glass, with complimentary hors d'oeuvres.
Following the trend toward lighter foods, El Torito Restaurants now cook exclusively with cholesterol-free soybean oil, according to president and chief executive officer Mike Casey. Also new is the use of light sour cream, and the addition of whole wheat tortillas, five new seafood dinner entrees, and a group of "light combos" at lunch.
SUNSET SPECIALS: Le Cafe in the Irvine Hilton and Towers has resumed its sunset dinner specials. Tabbed at $9.95 per person, they are available daily from 4:30 to 7 p.m. You can order from the special a la carte menu (prime rib of beef, fresh fish, or breast of chicken) and help yourself to the salad bar, or select from the buffet. All dinners include beverage and dessert, and there's free valet parking. Reservations: (714) 863-3111, Ext. 2103.
At the Emperor's Fortune in South Coast Village, a three course pre-theater menu includes soup, salad or a choice of appetizers; an entree selection of black bean scallops, lemon chicken or filet mignon Hong King style; and fresh plum tart, all served from 5 until 6:30 for $23 per person. Reservations: (714) 850-9008.
The Cafe at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is featuring an "overture buffet" on evenings preceding events at the nearby Performing Arts Center: the day's soup, an assortment of salads, fruits, domestic and imported cheeses, a choice of two main courses such as chicken Dijon or halibut in a dill sauce, and assorted pastries, all for $13.95 ($2 less if you pass up the dessert). Information: (714) 540-2500.
ON THE HORIZON: As reported in The Times' business section, the Knotts--yes, the Knotts of Berry Farm fame--plan to open a family restaurant in Irvine at Jeffrey Road and Alton Parkway. Though the signature dish will be fried chicken a la Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at the theme park, the new eatery will have a more extensive menu.