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Want to Eat Haute Cuisine ? : Join the Club


When Ken Frank's restaurant La Toque closed earlier this year, fans weren't too disheartened. They expected to be eating his food at the new House of Blues within months.

It turns out that Frank will only be cooking for the 70-seat private room reserved for members of the International House of Blues Foundation and their guests. Everyone else visiting the month-old blues club has to eat what ads call "international peasant fare."

The private dining room is set to open mid-June, but no one at the restaurant seems clear on what one has to do--or pay--for a membership.

"We were going to be just like any other charity. If you wanted to join, (you'd) write a check and become a member," says a House of Blues spokeswoman. "But we got so many requests that we've become overwhelmed. Right now, all I know is that membership includes privileges in the foundation dining room where Ken Frank will cook."

Meanwhile, the "For Sale" signs have been nailed back on Frank's now-shuttered La Toque. Seven months ago, Yujean Kang, chef-owner of his eponymous Pasadena nouvelle Chinese restaurant, bought the space. He even had the place checked out by a feng shui master. He consulted with a top designer from Taiwan. And he was spotted eyeing 14-karat-gold-tipped chopsticks. But the property still hasn't closed escrow. Neither Kang nor his attorney, Robert Sutcliffe, would return calls from Calendar.

"The deal is still pending," says restaurant broker Irv Siegel. "It's a matter of design and permit issues and (Kang and Sutcliffe) hope to have them resolved within a week."

"Yujean and his lawyer haven't had the courtesy to talk to me in months," says Frank. "There are hatched eggs and there are unhatched eggs and some of them you count and some of them you don't."

SUN STRUCK: Amid the startling revelation that Bernard Erpicum--former Spago maitre d' and self-described "world-renowned international wine expert and sommelier"--plans to serve "cuisine of the sun" at a restaurant named Eclipse, comes the news that the grand opening on June 15 includes an "exclusive recital by a 15-year-old soprano prodigy" . . . "original art work by one of the most prominent painters of contemporary neoclassical art" . . . "an impressive interior setting, designed by Lambert Monet (great grandson of Claude Monet)." So grab your best friend--you know, the one who is a descendant of Charlemagne--and head on over to the West Hollywood restaurant.

MORE OPENINGS: Babe's Cafe & Espresso Bar has opened on Stoner Avenue (one block west of Barrington, south of Olympic) serving soups, sandwiches, pizzas and quesadillas. The owners, a former waitress at Lawry's The Prime Rib and a former bartender at Fellini's, boast that their credentials include eating "from slums to the sublime." . . . A Crocodile Express, from the owners of the Crocodile Cafe chain, opens next month in the Glendale Galleria. . . . A second Delmonico's Seafood Grille has opened in Encino at Hayvenhurst Avenue and Ventura Boulevard. . . . Mobay, a spin-off of Malibu's Cafe Mobay, has opened on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice. The Caribbean-inspired menu features such dishes as filo-wrapped ackee and codfish, jerk pork chops and conch soup with pesto. . . . A second Hollywood Athletic Club was scheduled to Friday at Universal Studios Citywalk. The new club features a cafe, 19 pool tables, two bars, a mezzanine for private parties.

CLOSING?: Call Champagne Bis in West Los Angeles and you'll get a recording saying the phone has been disconnected. Owner Sophie Healy could not be reached for comment.

DINING DEALS: Prego in Beverly Hills offers a dinner-and-theater package on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. For $45, customers get a four-course Italian dinner and tickets to the musical comedy "Ruthless," playing at the Canon Theater. . . . British Raaj has a monthly dining deal that will appeal to regular customers: Eat at the Santa Monica restaurant twice in any month at the full price and the rest of the month all meals (excluding alcohol) are half price.

IT'S FREE: The West Hollywood Visitors Bureau has published a handy guide featuring the city's 120 restaurants, coffeehouses, and yogurt shops. For a free copy call (310) 274-7294.*

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