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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

An Evening at Victor's

August 22, 1993|LAURIE OCHOA

The Rolls-Royces are back in front of what used to be L'Ermitage, a restaurant that during its heyday in the late '70s and early '80s sometimes looked more like a used luxury-car lot than a place to eat. Some of the old faces are back too--there are L'Orangerie's Gerard Ferry and Patrick Terrail from the old Ma Maison, checking out the scene.

In the kitchen is Claude Segal, a chef who helped shape the direction of L.A. cuisine in the early '80s. But the man nervously keeping watch over the dining room, eyes darting from table to table, making sure everyone's got enough to eat, to drink, is Victor Drai, a newcomer on the restaurant scene, but not to the film industry--he's the producer who brought the world both "Weekend at Bernie's" and "Weekend at Bernie's II."

Here at Drai's, the crowd--an odd mix of the old and established and the young and vaguely hip--seems more interested in Champagne and table-hopping than in fine dining. But whether they pay attention or not, they're eating pretty darn well. Segal has put together an appealing menu full of updated bistro-cuisine classics. There are his trademark big salads--one with crispy sweetbreads and mushrooms, another with smoked duck--as well as grilled chicken with terrific french fries, duck confit in an intense Merlot reduction, and sliced leg of lamb, slow-cooked for seven hours and served with silky mashed potatoes.

* Drai's, 730 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 358-8585. Pasta and entrees, $11-$18.

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