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Tulipe Loses Its Bouquet for Owners

April 25, 1993|KATHIE JENKINS

"You really have to go with what people are looking for, and these days they're looking for a bargain," says Tulipe's Maurice Peguet. "For some people it's fairly easy: They are not using the most expensive ingredients, so they are able to make money and survive. We don't have that flexibility."

So Peguet and his partner, Roland Gibert, have sold their 4-year-old French restaurant on Melrose Avenue (it's on the site of the former Ma Maison). No closing date has been set, but Peguet estimates the restaurant will stay open "at least a couple more months." New owners, Itameshiya Melrose Inc., could not be reached for comment.

Tulipe has had problems from the start. It began with neighbors complaining that they didn't want another liquor license issued in the neighborhood. "We almost had to file for bankruptcy before we even opened," Peguet says. "They ganged up against us." When the restaurant did open, it was critically acclaimed, but financially rocky.

Peguet says the rumors that the restaurant has been on the market for more than a year are not true. "Everybody is for sale for the right price," he says. "That's how it happened. And we said, 'Why not?' "

FLYING THE COOP: "I guess I got the wrong partnership again," says Claude Segal who has cooked all over Los Angeles--at Ma Maison, Bistango, Four Oaks, MaBe, and most recently at his own 1-year-old Picnic restaurant. "My partner and I were having a disagreement about the way to run the business and she and her father, who is our investor, told me to leave." Segal, who plans to stay in L.A., says he will take a week's vacation and then start looking for a job.

"It was getting really rough and something had to give," says Segal's Picnic partner, Ilene Resnick. "I got the money to back up the restaurant, and since we kept losing money, we had to make a change." Sous-chef Shimbo Katfunori, who cooked at the Chaya restaurants, will take over as chef.

SEEING STARS: A year ago, when Champagne's Patrick and Sophie Healy split up, she continued to run their restaurant, which she renamed Champagne Bis. Her sous-chef took over Patrick Healy's chef's duties. "I had to do something ," says Sophie Healy. "But I had in mind that if I wanted to change the 7-year-old menu I would have to change the chef."

Now Healy says Champagne Bis is ready for that change. She has hired Christian Plumail, chef at L'Abbaye in La Colle-Sur-Loup near Nice, which has one star in the Guide Michelin. Plumail, who was voted France's best pastry chef in 1978, will begin cooking his own menu on May 15. "We are going to be the only restaurant in Los Angeles with a one-star Michelin chef," says Healy. Our last one-star chef, Bernard Bordaries, came to the Ritz Carlton-Huntington in Pasadena from the famed Hotel de L'Aigle Noir in Fontainebleau, but was ousted from his job at Christmastime. He is currently working on his tan in Malibu.

SPECIAL MENUS: "It used to be that if someone had a toothache," says Hans Rockenwagner, "they sucked on white asparagus." While Rockenwagner won't guarantee the vegetable's healing capabilities, he's once again featuring the white asparagus--which has been considered a delicacy since the 17th Century in Germany and France--at the Santa Monica restaurant that bears his name. Served every evening through mid-June, the special menu will include the vegetable grilled with lobster bearnaise, with tuna carpaccio and ginger remoulade, with smoked salmon rolls and caviar-chive vinaigrette, and with a morel-Cognac sauce.

Meanwhile, Ken Frank says the annual Cinco de Mayo prix-fixe ($25) dinner, prepared by the kitchen staff of his La Toque French restaurant on the Sunset Strip, will be better than ever. (It might also be his last--the place is for sale.) Dishes include two kinds of tamales and lamb with chipotle sauce. "Last year the dinner was two days after the riots," Frank says, "and it was hard."

STOCKPOT: Giancarlo Zaretti (he also owns the Northern Italian Caffe Zaretti in Northridge) has bought the former Vesuvio restaurant in Tarzana. After extensive remodeling, he will turn it into Il Salotto (the Living Room). Zaretti's brother, Pietro, will come from Rome to run the restaurant, which is expected to open May 6.

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