Craft Cuisine: Ah, remember the Egg and the Eye? The omelet and sandwich snackery, which opened along L.A.'s Miracle Mile in 1965, then eight years later shared its space with a gallery showcasing folk art and crafts, which later became the nonprofit Craft and Folk Art Museum? The restaurant closed in 1989, but the museum has lived on.
Now a new restaurant is opening in the old Egg and Eye space at 5800 Wilshire Blvd. It will be called Malabar, after the southwestern (or Malabar) coast of India (big craft and folk art territory, of course), and if you find yourself idly thinking Bombay Cafe, you're on the right track. It's the creation of Bombay Cafe chef-owners Neela Paniz and David Chaparro.
But instead of strictly Indian food, Malabar will be serving a blend of Indian and Mexican cuisine. This is not a bizarre idea at all. The two cuisines have substantial common ground, such as stone-ground grains and spices, flatbreads and a similar conception of cooking and table sauces (it's often been noted that Indian exchange students at American colleges tend to patronize Mexican restaurants). Malabar is scheduled to open later this year.
Mouse-Free Family Fun: If Chuck E. Cheese had a richer, more sophisticated younger brother, he might live on the Westside in a place called Cartoonsville. The latter is a new full-service, upscale restaurant that's aiming to entertain children and their parents. It boasts a two-story fun house and arcade play area, a birthday party room and its own costumed mascot character, King Iggy.
Kids will get to order before their parents from a special menu, and waiters will bring bread and carrot sticks to the table right away to keep those tiny hands busy. Parents can order such food as burgers, ribs, chicken, seafood, salads and sandwiches. And because no children's haven is complete without mondo marketing, Cartoonsville will have its own line of clothing and toys, thoughtfully displayed in a separate shopping area. Parents can escape the noise by ducking into a non-screaming area bolstered with two televisions that are cabled to broadcast sporting events.
Owner Steve Scarduzzio and partner John Rosenfield have splurged on rich fabrics for the dining room chairs, and teakwood furniture for the patios. As for the walls, they'll be hung with animation cels, but not from Warner Bros. or Disney: no mice allowed here. The grand opening will be on Halloween.
Food for Long-Necks: At JiRaffe, not only can you talk to a chef, you can eat like one. Chefs Josiah Citrin and Raphael Lunetta, who have done seasonal black truffle menus that allowed customers to sample all their truffle dishes at one time, have also been in the habit of devising special menus for visiting chefs. "So we decided to do it for every customer," says Citrin. Voila: un concept.
OK, the concept may not be totally original, but it has definite attractions--the portions are reduced so diners can taste several entrees at one sitting without gaining 50 pounds and spending beaucoup bucks. The Chef's Dinner Tasting Menu changes every three to four weeks and prices run upward of $35 for the whole meal. All the same items are also available a la carte as dinner specials. This month's tasting menu ($44) features three entrees--Maine lobster with artichoke hummus, Dover sole with brown butter corn sauce and co^te de boeuf with roasted potatoes--and for afters, an assorted cheese plate or a caramelized fig and lemon confit tart.
JiRaffe, 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 917-6671. Closed Mondays.
Sherman Oaks Swings: Moonlight, the Vegas-style supper club in Sherman Oaks, got a remodel job in May. Owner Lenetta Kidd wanted to hippify the rather old-fashioned--not to say downright kitsch--decor. Now rice paper lampshades hang amid burgundy and teal curtains (ooooh!). The lighting will be low, leaving all attention to the corner stage where the musicians preside.
Tuesday is big-band night, Wednesday is jazz, Latin or blues, and Thursday is swing night. Each week different bands play swing sets, and dance lessons are provided to those not already in the know. Supper starts at 6 p.m., bands begin playing at 8 and the Thursdays swing dance lessons begin at 9. In addition to the dinner menu, which consists of dishes from late, great supper clubs circa 1940-1990, Moonlight also has cocktail and martini menus. On Sunday, Sept. 17 and 24, they'll go Brazilian with dancing girls from Ipanema (it says here) and a Brazilian menu.
Moonlight, 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 788-2000. $5 cover charge, $9.95 food minimum, closed Mondays.