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SOCIAL CLIMES / UP ALL NIGHT

Forget Paris? Mais Non!

June 25, 1995|LAURA A. GALLOWAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

So many expatriate Parisians frequent the Louis XIV bar and restaurant that it is unofficially known about town as the "Left Bank of La Brea." The owner is French. The food is French. And late in the evening, it is not unheard of to see kissing that is. . . .

You get the idea.

For some time now, Louis XIV has been a "must do" hangout for the hip, twentysomething crowd looking to wine and dine in the European tradition of hours-long meals around true Europeans, not the wanna-bes with fake accents who inevitably pop up wherever the hip and famous are.

Step into the smoky, candlelit bar and you are likely to feel as if you've entered a United Nations summit on fashion; a veritable plethora of accents can be heard, from French to Farsi, British to Brooklynese. And a good portion of the patrons, men and women alike, are drop-dead beautiful models dressed to the nines.

While the restaurant runs heavy on atmosphere--replete with smoked glass windows, high Baroque chandeliers and dramatic wooden tables with heavy silver candlesticks, patrons are quick to speak out about the food, which many claim is the best this side of Provence. "Where else can I get steak tartar at midnight?" said a movie producer hidden in a dark corner with his beau.

Throughout, a mishmash of stick-thin models, pierced rockers and a fair number of New Yorkers can be found engaging in lively conversation and plenty of cigarette smoking in both the bar and eating areas. (Well, they are Europeans, after all.)

"What I'm focusing on is the food. Good food and good atmosphere," says owner Jean Louis Bartoli, a Corsican who learned about food working in kitchens in the South of France before coming to the States. Bartoli opened Louis XIV in 1988 with the backing of hair care king Paul Mitchell, Bartoli's then-brother-in-law. Today, Bartoli is full owner.

The meals here are served slowly (translation for the impatient: Service is sometimes slow) and the ever-changing music, from classic jazz to techno, makes it sometimes hard to have an intimate conversation, particularly after 9 p.m. when the establishment really heats up.

When things do get off the ground, plan to see plenty of folks bumping and grinding to the music (and sometimes into you) as well as schmoozing in the bar and discussing the latest news of Europe and who got a gig doing a print ad with what major photographer.

The bar, which carries a full selection of wines and spirits, is often the best place to watch the carefully dressed couples enter. Watching the people here "is like watching angels descend," said a patron.

*

Where: Louis XIV, 606 N. La Brea, Los Angeles; (213) 934-5102.

When: Nightly, 6 p.m. to midnight.

Cost: Wines by glass: $3.50-$6.50. By bottle: $14-$35.

Entrees: $8.50-$15.50.

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