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What Is It About Spago and Really Smoggy Cities?

August 08, 1993|KATHIE JENKINS

Will Wolfgang Puck say si to a Spago in Mexico City?

Puck, who generally refuses offers of new restaurant partnerships and deals in other cities, was approached by a group of Mexican businessmen. They want to build a Spago clone in the world's smoggiest city. Their target opening date is 1994. Like the Spago in Tokyo, in which Puck has an interest, this would be a licensing arrangement. That means Puck would retain control of every aspect of the restaurant from the food to the staffing to the dining room and right down to the dishes.

"Right now," says Tom Kaplan, manager and co-owner of Spago, "this is all still in the discussion stages. Nothing has been signed yet."

One thing is certain: Spago Mexico City will not be Barbara Lazaroff-designed. Puck has already brought Adam Tihany into the discussions. Tihany, who designed Spago Las Vegas, opened his own Remi in Mexico City in March, so he is familiar with the area.

"Barbara is busy with other projects," says Kaplan. "I think she has a large volume of work going on now, so she's happy."

CREATIVE DIFFERENCES: "It's amazing," says ex-Bof chef Ken Barnoski. "He had me hook, line and sinker for eight months. I thought everything Alain was saying was true. I found out little by little none of it was."

Barnoski has walked out of the tiny, exotic restaurant "with tantalizing suggestions of ancient Mesopotamia" located between the Beverly Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He has also filed a complaint against owner Alain Der Gregorian with the labor relations board to recover unpaid wages.

Der Gregorian tells a different story. "First of all," he says, "Ken didn't quit. I fired him. As far as owing him back wages, it was just one paycheck, and he took my recipes. These were recipes he devised while he was working for me."

Der Gregorian adds: "He was a good cook without a doubt, but he was a spoiled cook. He never lasted anywhere more than six months. I found that out after I fired him."

Meanwhile, Der Gregorian, whose family owns restaurants in New Delhi and Stockholm, has taken charge of the kitchen. He's dropped Barnoski's country European cuisine in favor of a Middle Eastern menu. "Something more palatable to the neighborhood," he says.

Barnoski, who cooked at Rosebud, Trumps and Rose Tatou, claims that the restaurant was poorly managed. "We went through a bunch of different purveyors because he ran out of money and didn't pay them."

"Of course we have accounts with all our purveyors," says Der Gregorian, "but so does every restaurant in town. You buy on credit, you sell, and then you pay them." The bottom line, says Der Gregorian: "I am the one who is still here, and he's not."

ON THE TABLE: Zenzero, former Chinois chef Kazuto Matsusaka's 6-week-old Santa Monica restaurant, has opened for lunch. There's soy-glazed butterfish, stir fry ahi tuna, and grilled curried chicken salad--at about a third the cost of the dinner menu. . . . In the New York tradition, Cafe Morpheus in Beverly Hills offers a special prix-fixe $19.93 dinner nightly. The meal will include a choice of three appetizers, three main courses, three desserts and a beverage. Unlike the New York restaurants, the offer is good only before 7 p.m. . . . "We had some problems with the acoustics and now all that is fixed," says chef Jean-Pierre Bosc, who left Castel Bistro last December to cook at Lunaria, Bernard Jacoupy's West Los Angeles bistro/jazz club. "Bernard spent some money on it." Bosc has introduced a new menu, which he describes as California French, "very Provencal."

If you've got money and like to show off on the dance floor, the posh Rancho Valencia Restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe offers dinner and dancing--big band, ballroom, jazz, swing, fox trot--Thursday evenings through Sept. 16. . . . For those with less money, and less interest in dancing, Cicada restaurant has dropped its prices. In addition, the Melrose Avenue restaurant offers early-bird specials between 6 and 7:30 p.m.: Six dinners include wine, appetizer, entree and dessert and cost from $20 to $24.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, 72 Market Street is offering a special three-course dinner Mondays through Thursdays. The menu changes, but the price stays the same: $25 for three courses and coffee. . . . 442 Restaurant, the natural food spot on Fairfax, is now open for Sunday brunch.

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