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Will Hollywood See Tower's Stars?


Wolfgang Puck was the first L.A. chef to make the move to San Francisco. Then Michel Richard and John Sedlar both opened spinoffs of their Los Angeles places there. Now it seems the tide is turning. Jeremiah Tower has been poking around down south. The California cuisine pioneer who owns the perennially trendy Stars in San Francisco, as well as the 50-seat Stars Oakville Cafe in Napa Valley, wants to open an L.A. branch. Sources say he's negotiating to take over the former Columbia Bar & Grill near Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Stars for stars?

However, Tower is not that desperate to come south. Only if the place and the price are right. According to a source, the cost-conscious chef was dumbfounded by the architect's preliminary estimates, which were twice what he had expected. Tower was unavailable for comment. His assistant Amanda Berks insists, "Nothing is happening at the moment."

Who's on First?: Eberhard Mueller, who was chef-partner for six months at the former Opus in Santa Monica and chef at New York's celebrated Le Bernardin, was slated to be involved as chef-partner in a 10,000-square-foot fish market and restaurant opening soon on New York's West Side. Manhattan super-chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of JoJo and Vong fame is also a partner in the place. That was before Ark Restaurants Corp. called Mueller and the German-born chef came running. "Since we approached (Mueller) four weeks ago, he's been on a different course," says Michael Weinstein, president of Ark, the company that purchased Andre Soltner's famous New York French restaurant Lutece earlier this week. "Now he only wants to do Lutece. The fish market is not going to happen (for him)."

The fact that Mueller is coming on board doesn't mean Soltner is out of the picture. "Eberhard is going to be like a co-chef," says Weinstein. "He will be there when Andre is not. Andre will be there when Eberhard is not. But most of the time they'll both be there." Under the terms of the sale, Soltner and Mueller have equity in the restaurant. Weinstein refused to comment on how the partnership is divided. "We certainly have the majority," he says.

According to Weinstein, he and Soltner have been negotiating the deal for the past year but only recently decided who they wanted to bring in. Each had someone different in mind. It was former California chef Jonathan Waxman, who now works for New York-based Ark, who recommended Mueller for the job. "I called Andre up and said, 'I have a guy,' " says Weinstein, "and he said, 'Come on over right away.' By then, we weren't talking on phones. When I told him who it was, Andre snapped his fingers and said, 'Your guy is better than my guy.' "

Joe Re-Enlists: Venice won't be losing its best restaurant after all. Having shopped around for more elegant digs, Joe Miller, chef-owner of the tiny California-French restaurant that bears his name, has decided to stay put. "You know how fickle people get when you move," he says. "I've been here three years now, and my lease was up. I knew I had to do something." So Miller cut a deal with his landlord to perk up the place.

He's revamping the interior and turning the patio into a garden room. By leasing the adjacent outdoor courtyard, he'll be able to pick up another 20 seats. Everything should be completed by next month. According to the first issue of "Joe's News," he has also planned a new fall menu for the occasion. As for the neighborhood, "it's completely safe," says Miller. "We have valet parking and a guard in our lot. No one has been mugged yet."

Buffalo Hunt: So what if the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard and Renaissance on the Promenade in Santa Monica have already opened private rooms? Or that there's going to be a VIP back room at Sanctuary, the supper club due to open next month in Beverly Hills? That hasn't stopped "Miami Vice" creator Tony Yerkovich from taking his sweet time opening the exclusive, swank Buffalo Club on Olympic near 17th Street in Santa Monica. He's been working on the place for three years now. (Don't be fooled by the dumpy-looking exterior or the neighborhood; the interior is said to be spectacular.) Although consulting chef Patrick Healy says no opening date has been set, sources swear the members-only Buffalo Club will quietly open next week for dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

The closed-mouthed screenwriter would not return Calendar's calls. Nor would manager Tom Kane comment on the opening date. "It's entirely Tony's deal," he said. "I'm caught in the middle, and I don't want to be."

Apparently, Yerkovich and company aren't the least bit worried by L.A.'s sudden obsession with privacy. But are there enough real celebs to go around? "I don't have any idea what anyone else is doing, but I know it isn't going to be what we're doing," says manager Kane. "It can't be. It's a signature thing. I know this will be different." Sure thing.

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