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Bardot--Sans Brigitte--Due on Melrose

July 25, 1993|KATHIE JENKINS

When Border Grill closed last year due to high workers' compensation costs, partner Barbara McReynolds (who co-owns L.A. Eyeworks just next door) planned to open another restaurant at the same Melrose Avenue location. Workers' comp rates are based on the number of claims filed, so if the owners opened a different type of restaurant and took on another partner, they could have started clean, with no claims against the restaurant.

But things didn't work out, and now the cafe has been sold. "I am just going to stay in the optical business," says McReynolds. "It's much more profitable."

Meanwhile, new owner Raphael Wizman--until he "got bored" he was a hairdresser and clothing manufacturer--changed the name to Bardot and redecorated the place a la 1930s Art Deco. "We even imported the antique bar from Paris," says Wizman.

But the bar isn't the only import from France. Wizman also got Claude Segal to design the kitchen and the menu. "I've put some influence on it," says Segal, "but Akira will be the chef." That's Akira Hirose, the former chef at Belvedere in the Peninsula Beverly Hills.

Wizman describes the food as French/Japanese with California flair. Bardot is expected to open the first week of August. "I found Claude and I found Akira," says Wizman, "so I can't go wrong."

Simultaneously, Segal is working on readying Drai's, the restaurant film producer Victor Drai is opening next month in the former L'Ermitage space. Drai had planned to call his place Victor's, but has been forced to use his surname. "It will not be called Victor's now," says Segal, "because we found somebody else is using the name."

STILL SAILING: Chez Jay, one of the last great mom-and-pop joints, celebrates its 34th anniversary this month. Owner Jay Fiondella is most remembered for clogging traffic for 36 hours when his 26-ton homemade pirate ship capsized on Culver Boulevard. "I met my wife, Lucy, because of it," says the flamboyant Santa Monica restaurateur, "and here I am 66 with a 44-year-old son and a 32-year-old wife." Fiondella is also thankful that the diminutive Chez Jay has survived. "Just within blocks of me," says Fiondella, "Belle-Vue, Zucky's, Panache and Fennel (which now shares kitchen quarters with Pazzia on La Cienega) are all gone." Fiondella promises a free glass of wine this month to "anybody that asks."

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