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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Stringfellows--a Groovy L.A.er?

December 28, 1990|LAURIE OCHOA

At 10:15 p.m., Peter Stringfellow takes the stage. The Stringfellows logo blazes pink neon behind him; pink light filters down from above. He's tan and fit, his blond hair in a modified Rod Stewart cut.

"I'd like to welcome you all to my restaurant- slash -nightclub," the P.A. booms. "In just a little while a lot of groovy L.A.ers are going to join us. I hope. . . ." He clasps his hands together in mock-prayer and tilts his head upward toward the ceiling's pink glow. On weekends, huge lines of anxious people hope to get past the velvet ropes and into the club, the newest link in Stringfellow's international nightclub chain. But on this weeknight things are, well, quieter. You imagine Stringfellow is thinking about the rent he has to pay on this place in the Disneylandish Two Rodeo complex. Beverly Hills . . . Rodeo Drive . . . $$$$$. Disco music booms. Milton Berle, at the center table, winces.

At Stringfellows, what passes for elegance is less the Hollywood club look than the Hollywood wives look. Enhanced cleavage is in.

Earlier, as you picked at, say, your "Stringfellows all-white salad" (curly endive, fennel, onion, white asparagus) with its black-pepper vinaigrette, a screen slowly descended ("A video!" a waiter explains to a perplexed couple) and revealed . . . the tuxedoed pianist playing dinner music five feet away from you.

Much of the food is very good. The executive chef, Margaret Fischlein, in her earliest 20s, worked at Campanile before joining Stringfellow. She makes things like good sweetbread and potato lasagna and grilled squab with a lentil salad and grilled polenta. Her braised rabbit comes with orzo (rice pasta) cakes, which are a neat play on potato pancakes. Her sauteed John Dory comes on a bed of lightly truffled mashed potatoes, a trick she picked up from Campanile.

Service is about what you'd expect at a place like this: fawning, yet somehow inept. Stringfellows, Two Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; (213) 285-9909. Entrees $20.95-$28.95.

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