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Keeping It Simple

Opening soon, Fred 62--A Diner will offer a basic yet eclectic menu around the clock.

May 15, 1997|MARGARET SHERIDAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What a Hoot: Night owls craving noodles or French toast with the kind of maple syrup that comes from a tree will have another choice on May 29 when Fred 62--A Diner, opens. The philosophy behind restaurateur Fred Eric's latest venture is summed up on the diner's answering machine: "Eat now, dine later."

"Just simple food" is how Eric, of Vida, describes the menu. The name refers to his birth year.

Burgers, meat loaf and five types of Asian noodles (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese) are included. His takeoff on wraps is tubes, sandwiches on such breads as challah, whole wheat or pumpernickel dreamed up by Eric and baker Sumi Chang, of Europane in Pasadena. One filling mates a goat's milk Camembert with pickled onion and arugula. More bites include 62 Club (smoked turkey or salmon) and a crisp veggie patty burger.

Breakfast features a tofu scramble, two kinds of French toast (fluffy with a custardy center or crisp-fried and coated with a cornflake crust) and pancakes (sour cream and buttermilk). Real maple syrup arrives in stainless steel clones of squeezable teddy bears.

* Fred 62--A Diner, 1854 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 667-0062. Open 24 hours. Opening is scheduled for May 29.

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Sound Bites: Dueling banjos, move over. How about Ferrari-red pianos. At Duet, a 2-week-old bar-restaurant in Westwood (formerly Yesterday's), a pair of keyboards compete against each other Wednesday through Friday evening. The venture of actor Larry Manetti and partners Jayson Cohen (formerly owner of a Hollywood watering hole, Columbia Bar & Grill) and Chris Mallick, Duet features a standard California menu with lots of pasta, chicken and fish. Entertainment is the drawing card, and the good news is no cover charge. On Sundays there's a 14-piece swing orchestra; Monday, funk rock; Tuesday, reggae.

* Duet, 1056 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. (310) 208-5381.

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New Twist: Why fiddle with a good thing? Marino Ristorante on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood is sending its classic tiramisu on sabbatical for the summer and offering a new low-fat version made with "lite" mascarpone and fat-free cream cheese. The classic will return in the fall. . . . To celebrate the first anniversary of Cha Cha Chicken, owner Toribio Prado has added more seats on the patio of his funky Ocean Avenue restaurant in Santa Monica.

The maze of palm trees, oil drums in fiesta colors and hanging baskets of wildflowers are enough to cause pedestrian traffic jams. Cool down with fresh lemonade stirred with sticks of sugar cane. New menu items include a veggie plate of fried plantains, baked sweet potatoes brushed with rum-based marinade, goat stew and jerked corn-on-the-cob. The Ricki wrap, a pita stuffed with grilled, spiced chicken, is named after his son. Corn bread slathered with Nutella has become the favorite sweet requested by performers from Cirque du Soleil, currently appearing at nearby Santa Monica Pier. . . . Now in the competition for patio dining is Crustacean on Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For grazers there's a new bar menu with Euro-Asian tapas and signature drinks made with flavored vodkas (anyone for lemon grass vodka?), plum and rice wines. . . .

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Partings: Michael Roberts left Twin Palms in April. Roberts, former owner of Trumps in West Hollywood, developed the restaurant in 1994 and remained there as corporate chef. He's leaving to pursue other ventures and complete his fourth cookbook. Chef Tony Zidar, who's been with Twin Palms for one year, will oversee both kitchens.

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Colonial Period: Eating outdoors on the balcony of Le Colonial in West Hollywood is a far cry from steamy Hanoi, where the high-pitched scream of motorbikes often makes conversation impossible. But one of Hanoi's culinary attractions for many foodies is an utterly simple stir-fry entree, called cha ca. It has just been introduced at Le Colonial by chef Gary Bao.

In Hanoi, the best rendition, according to locals, is found in a ramshackle restaurant named after the food, in a clogged alley of the same name. Crowds standing in the doorway and lining the stair well to this second floor restaurant make is a snap to locate.

Cha ca, Hanoi-style, is a participation dish that requires a mini- wok, a brazier and plates of goodies--fresh cilantro, dill, green onions, rice noodles and peanuts.

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Such a Deal: Wanna put on the Ritz? Haul out the checkbook, round up 12 friends and read on. The Ultimate Dinner Party package at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, is yours for $48,000.

The party includes a Veuve Clicquot 1988 La Grand Dame reception with beluga caviar, a five-course Cha^teau Lafite Rothschild wine- and food-pairing dinner in the Wine Room, a tasting of three first-growth '89 Bordeaux and celebrated Cabernets, six ocean-front suites for two-night stays, limousine service and six sets of Riedel crystal wine glasses. (714) 240-5008.

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