The San Fernando Valley is about to explode with new restaurants. The first to open, in about two months, will be a branch of Cha Cha Cha, which is moving into the Encino site formerly occupied by Hymie's Fish Market. Chef-owner Toribio Prado recently went to Jamaica and returned with many ideas for the restaurant. "It's going to have fins, plants, birds, it's going to move ," he says.
Prado has other plans for the Valley. "I'm planing to bring back the '30s and '40s and '50s, and I want to have a place where the movie stars hang out," he says of the Equator, which he will open in the MCA Citywalk complex in Universal City. "I'm also planning to bring the samba and merengue and cha cha back to Los Angeles."
Prado shouldn't have any problem finding help for his projects. "I have seven sisters and six brothers and my dream is to have all of them working for me."
The Valley will also soon have a second Daily Grill and a new California Pizza Kitchen--both in the Encino Place Center on the corner of Woodley and Ventura. Owner Bob Spivak also has plans for a Studio City Daily Grill at the intersection of Ventura and Laurel Canyon boulevards. Spivak also plans to open a Daily Grill in Pasadena. "Can't say where, it's three different spots we are looking at," he says.
Meanwhile, James Saliba, co-owner of La Loggia and Barsac Brasserie is planning another restaurant in the West Valley. "We are negotiating for the Divino Restaurant in Woodland Hills," he says. Saliba says the food will be Italian Mediterranean. "A lot of people have the misconception when you say Mediterranean, they tend to think North African cuisine. That's why I'm saying Mediterranean based on Italian."
CRUMBS: Are Nobu Matsuhisa and Michel Blanchet planning to buy L'Ermitage and open it as a Franco-Japanese restaurant? "No, not really," says Blanchet, former chef of L'Ermitage, "it was something we considered but I don't think it's going to work. We are waiting for an investor but it looks like we didn't work fast enough." But Blanchet says he and his friend Matsuhisa haven't given up. "I don't think the mood of people is on a high-class French restaurant. Maybe it would be better to do some kind of French bistro-style restaurant with a touch of Oriental dishes, Japanese style," he says. Matsuhisa hasn't given up either. "Michel is best of friends with me and I'd like to help him. We are still talking."
According to a source, Roger Verge, proprietor of France's three-star Le Moulin de Mougins, is looking for an L.A. location. Verge, a missionary who spreads the good word about French food, once told The Times that he likes Los Angeles and has many friends here.
And it seems that movie mogul and Carnegie Deli partner Marvin Davis may be ready for a new diet. Eberhard Mueller, long-time chef at Le Bernardin in New York, has signed a lease at the new Santa Monica Water Garden complex; he plans to open a fish restaurant. Davis, whose Miller/Davis Co. is a partner in the Water Garden complex, is rumored to be a personal investor in Mueller's as-yet-unnamed restaurant. (One of the names reportedly under consideration is Rivoire.) A spokesman for Davis says he can't, as yet, confirm the rumor.
GOODBY MR. SHIPS: In the early '50s, when Emmett Shipman and his father Matt opened their three 24-hour coffee shops, they put a toaster on every table. "It was the only way we could figure to make sure people got hot toast--let them do it themselves," the younger Shipman once told The Times.
The Shipmans believed firmly in serving the best quality--even if it cost more. One former customer remembers asking Emmett why his hamburgers were so terrific. "He used USDA prime beef and said that you shouldn't pat it too much, just make a patty as loose as you possibly can," she says. "The other trick was he never put the ground round back in the refrigerator because that's when a hard crust forms. He was just as fiendish about toast--that's why he had those toasters around. He wanted you to have fresh, hot toast."
Emmett Shipman died July 25, and some of his best customers took the time to reminisce. "When you walked in there, it just felt so streamliney and so familiar," said Evan Kleiman, the chef-owner of Angeli. She said that when she was a UCLA student, Ships in Westwood was her favorite place to eat. "I used to love their dinner salad with Roquefort dressing. First of all because it was real Roquefort, not blue cheese . . . and they always had a lot of freshly grated carrots on top. I used to order that and a patty melt."
Ken Frank, chef-owner of La Toque, used to stop at Ships for breakfast every day. He was 21 and working at La Guillotine. "They had freshly squeezed orange juice in one of those machines where they take half an orange and stick it on the thing and pull the handle around a couple of times, and it squeezes it. And it was good, fresh squeezed orange juice, too."