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His Wheels of Fortune Can Be Found on the Bus

Guy Gabriel marks Cafe Pierre's two decades by reviving a tradition: a road trip up north.

May 29, 1997|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Birthday Guy: Restaurants always celebrate our birthdays, so the least we can do is to return the favor--particularly since most of them have life spans rather shorter than the average household pet. Cafe Pierre in Manhattan Beach is one of the lucky few to have reached the age of 20. (How old is that in dog years, by the way?) In fact, owner Guy Gabriel expanded awhile back with Restaurant Zazou in Redondo Beach. So congratulations, Guy.

Part of the secret of his longevity might be getting that rapport thing going with his regulars. For several years he organized an annual bus trip, usually to Santa Barbara, to check out a winery and have a party. For Cafe Pierre's 20th, he's reviving the custom. Two busloads of regulars are paying $100 apiece to ride up to Brander Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley and then have a barbecue, with Michel Richard (Citrus, Citronelle), Celestino Drago (Drago, Il Pastaio), Jean-Pierre Bosc (Mimosa) and Michel Ohayon (Koutobia) each cooking up a specialty (not to mention Cafe Pierre's own kitchen staff and Brander's Argentine barbecue team), with appetizers provided by Michel Blanchet (long the chef of L'Hermitage, now of his own smoked salmon company, Cordon 'n Bleu).

Not too surprisingly, about a dozen more have signed up than the two buses can hold; Gabriel is considering adding a third bus, so there might be room for a handful more. Call (310) 545-5252 if you're interested.

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A Santa Monica Star: Ocean Star Seafood, that Monterey Park palace of Hong Kong-style Cantonese seafood and dim sum, has just expanded to Santa Monica. The offspring, Royal Star, opened just a week ago in a suitably ambitious location that seats 220.

Expect to see a lot of tanks of live fish, heavy on the crustaceans and all replenished daily. Royal Star serves the same vast array of seafood dishes as the original, though perhaps laid out a little more systematically on the menu. And it has a couple of specialties not available at Ocean Star, such as crab in the style of the Hong Kong night market and tai pan crab--a whole crab sauteed with garlic, black pepper, cilantro and lemon grass.

* Royal Star, 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 828-8812. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Karma Mia: Bravo Cucina likes to call its food "karma-free cooking." All the ingredients are organic and the owners are "moving out of red meat," though there's still a little in the bolognese sauce. Mostly, fish and poultry are served. (For that matter, a lot of little mozzarella and loaves of fresh bread ought to watch their steps. There are quite a few totally vegetarian dishes on the menu.) Owners Peter and Ernest Lepore conduct prayers with the staff every morning before the food is prepared.

This may sound ultra-Santa Monica, and the place is located on the Promenade, but Bravo's roots are actually in New York's Little Italy. The Lepores are the grandsons of the man who founded the famous Cafe Ferrara on Mulberry Street 105 years ago and are writing a cookbook of their family recipes to be titled "Brava Cucina: The Ferrara Tradition Lives On." They're also planning to open Ferrara Cafes on the West Coast.

* Bravo Cucina, 1319 3rd St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-0374. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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Tidbits: There's a new kitchen crew at Pastis Restaurant, the Provencal restaurant on Beverly Boulevard: Huges Quintard, formerly of L'Orangerie and the Beverly Hills Hotel, and Eric Mercier, whose background is La Tour d'Argent (Paris) and La Co^te d'Or (Saulieu). . . . Pascal Olhats, the Orange County maestro of Provencal cuisine, has opened a casual place called Cafe Jardin at Sherman Gardens in Corona Del Mar. Mostly salads and sandwiches. . . . The Dining Room at the Regent Beverly Wilshire is welcoming back chef Richard Leveckis. His California-ized brand of Continental cuisine runs to things like pan-roasted lobster with forest mushrooms (Leveckis is an avid mushroom collector). . . . Live jazz with your food: Friday nights at Tesoro Trattoria in the California Plaza downtown, Monday nights at Typhoon at the Santa Monica Airport. . . . Lawry's the Prime Rib opened a branch in Las Vegas in February, at the Hughes Center. The chef is Vegas veteran Michael Ty, who was executive chef at Caesar's Palace for 14 years. FYI: A Lawry's opened in Jakarta, Indonesia, last fall. (Memo to self: Don't bother to pack that seasoned salt for the big trip to Indonesia.)

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