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RESTAURANT NEWS

Bistro-Fare Brouhaha Leads to Fennel Chef's Exit

August 22, 1993|KATHIE JENKINS

Fennel/Pazzia chefs Laurent Grangien and Umberto Bombana have left the Franco-Italian kitchen combo on La Cienega. Bombana, who worked at Mauro Vicenti's Pazzia since it opened five years ago, has taken a job cooking at the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong. He has been replaced by Enrico Trova, former sous-chef at Vicenti's elegant downtown Rex il Ristorante.

Sources say that Grangien, who was once in charge of the bistros of high-profile French chef Michel Rostang (including the superb Bistrot d' a Cote) before he came to cook at Fennel, became upset when he was asked to adapt his authentic French bistro menu to the American palate.

"It's true he was unhappy when we told him that we had to change the menu a bit and not be completely French," says Fennel/Pazzia manager Jean-Christophe LeVarrat. "We had lots of andouille, lots of boudin. It was difficult to sell."

Pierre Barrelier, who also cooked with Rostang, will take over Ganguin's chef duties until another chef can be found.

Last year, the Italian and French restaurants began sharing kitchen quarters when the owners received an offer for Fennel's Ocean Avenue property (now Zenzero) from a group of Japanese businessmen that was too good to pass up. They packed up their dishes and moved in with Pazzia.

Fennel may be moving once again . . . possibly into the former clothing store space located directly in the front of Fennel/Pazzia. The owners are also talking about reserving the Pazzia space strictly for private parties. Also, they have recently opened Barbarella, a bar in another space that became vacant in the complex.

"We are trying to go toward a later, younger crowd," says LeVarrat. "We decided instead of doing gastronomic cuisine, which is very difficult to sell now, to go along with the recession and move toward more trattoria/bistro-type simpler food. We used to have very regular sophisticated customers, but there are so many new restaurants opening it's difficult to keep them.

"I guess its time for a little change," adds LeVarrat, "After all, five years in Los Angeles is quite long."

HEADING WEST: C'est Fan Fan is hoping to take the Westside by storm. Chef/owner Hajime Kaki, a veteran of Chinois on Main and New York's China Grill, ran the tiny trendy restaurant on the less-than-fabulous western fringe of East Hollywood until it closed earlier this year. Now, Kaki will open another version of the 12-seat Franco-Chinese restaurant in the space formerly occupied by a sushi bar on 3rd Street, near La Cienega. The new and bigger C'est Fan Fan will seat 27.

"I want to take things step-by-step," says Kaki, who ran the old place by himself, "and right now I've looking for a sous-chef ."

THE MAN AT THE MOON: Due to high workers' compensation costs, Chuck Rogers has put his landmark Blue Moon Cafe in Valencia up for sale. "Let's face it," says Rogers, "everyone is going to Nevada, Colorado, Utah, anywhere but California to do business. The incentive for the small businessman here is gone."

Rogers hopes the legal transfer will be completed within the week. He's signed a letter of agreement with the new owners, a group of Santa Clarita Valley businessmen. "But," he cautions, "I haven't seen any money yet."

STILL GOING: When a local paper printed that Amadeo was for sale, owner Amedeo Costantino got phone calls from customers canceling upcoming parties they had booked. "Business in the summer is bad enough anyway," says Costantino. "Now I am in a real bad situation. Everyday people call to ask if we are still here." So, for the record: Amedeo's continues to serve moderately priced Italian food at the casual Old Town Pasadena cucina.

CLOSINGS: Pyramid, the soul food restaurant on La Cienega that sold Kool-Aid for a dollar a glass, is no more. . . . Three years ago, before opening, the owners of the Sakana Club on San Vicente Boulevard gutted and remodeled the dining room three times before they were happy. The modern, discreet and expensive space featured elegant dining, white-gloved waiters and tables decorated with pricey crystal, silver and china. Today, call the club and a recording refers you to another number, which turns out to be a mortgage brokerage. They'll tell you Sakana Club has closed.

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