Driving past the old Morton's site a few weeks ago, I noticed a banner draped over the front of the building-under-reconstruction: "Bernard Is Back!" it proclaimed. As if all of Los Angeles were waiting breathlessly. Bernard who? Why, Bernard Erpicum, the one-time all-powerful maitre d' at Spago, who decided the fate of would-be insiders every night, conducting parties to one of the coveted tables up front--or to the back realm where it was impossible to see or be seen. Needless to say, Mr. Erpicum made a lot of friends at Spago.
And he's counting on every one of them following him to his new restaurant, which opened June 30 after a flurry of celebrity-laced private parties. It's called Eclipse and features "the cuisine of the sun," which, at first look, seems to be St. Tropez tossed with California. As chef, he's enlisted Spago and Chinois alumnus Serge Falesitch, who cooked most recently at Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe. The decorator is no less than Lambert Monet, grandson of the Impressionist painter, who has given the large, high-ceilinged dining room a high gloss of velvet and brocade.
Eclipse's heavy glass doors close to form the splayed rays of the sun. From the bar, which has been moved close to the entrance, there's a view of the glassed-in kitchen where cooks in embroidered white uniforms and floppy toques toil before the stoves. From the brick wood-fired oven comes the house specialty: whole fish brushed with olive oil and herbs and fileted table-side. (Some of the waiters seem to be struggling, though.)