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Winning Formula

Joe Joe's new owners know better than to mess with the restaurant's success.


Joe Joe's Restaurant in Sherman Oaks gets three new owners this week--general manager James Dresser and co-chefs Tom Munoz and Jake LaTray--but don't expect them to change much.

As James Dresser puts it, why mess with success? Known for its French and American cuisine, the restaurant has drawn good crowds since Joe Miller, who owns Joe's Restaurant in Venice, branched out into the San Fernando Valley nearly two years ago.

Dresser, Munoz and LaTray have been around the restaurant scene in Southern California for years, but this is their first stint as owners.

Dresser from Connecticut worked as a waiter, assistant manager and general manager at Joe's Restaurant, the Brentwood Bar and Grill, and the West Beach Cafe in Venice. Jake came to Southern California from Montana to work the kitchen in Joe's Restaurant and later Joe Joe's, with a stint in Singapore in between.

Munoz, the only California native among them, started out washing dishes for Miller 15 years ago.

"He moved up to prep cook, line cook, sous chef and chef, and he became executive chef here when we opened up a year and ten months ago," Dresser says.

"Tommy and Jake are going to be co-chefs now, and they're really the guys who make this place happen. You come in here any night of the week and you see them out in the dining room stopping by all the tables to talk with people."

The big sellers on the menu:

* Whitefish topped with thinly sliced potatoes flash-sauteed and arranged to look like the scales on a fish, served with wild rice, carrots and spinach, $14;

* A saffron risotto with grilled shrimp in a basil sauce, served with green beans and carrots, $15;

* Sliced London broil with a balsamic vinegar sauce, served with mashed potatoes, onions and spinach, $15.

"We're not going to make any big changes," Dresser says. "The menu changes maybe 20% every six months, so it's pretty much what it was when Joe Joe's opened.

"We're just going to ease into things as owners. We want to keep this place just about the same."

Joe Joe's seats 68. It is at 13355 Ventura Blvd., halfway between Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks, (818) 990-8280.


Fans of Saddle Peak Restaurant in Calabasas will want to know that Gael Lecolley has taken over as executive chef. Josie Le Balch, the restaurant's longtime executive chef, left earlier this spring to pursue other interests, chief among them her lifelong ambition to open her own place.

Lecolley trained at Lycee d'Etude Professional in Caen, France, and later studied with the great French pastry chef Gaston Lenotre. He worked as executive chef at Wheeler Hot Springs restaurant in Ojai before becoming Le Balch's chef de cuisine at Saddle Peak a year ago.

Saddle Peak Lodge is at 419 Cold Canyon Road, just off of Las Virgenes Road between Calabasas and Malibu, (818) 222-3888.


Looking for something to do on a lazy Sunday--or a lazy Saturday? Sisley Italian Kitchen, a bright new place in Sherman Oaks, offers a weekend brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

The menu includes eggs Benedict, a risotto with poached eggs or sausage, fried eggs prepared sunny side up in virgin olive oil, cinnamon French toast, a waffle, an omelet with sweet sausage and roasted peppers, and a tiger shrimp frittata.

The frittata is $12.95, but everything else ranges downward from $9.95.

Sisley Italian Kitchen is at 15300 Ventura Blvd., on the corner of Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, (818) 905-8444.

Tax day came and went without a hitch yesterday, right? Next up on the calendar of days to remember: National Secretaries Day on Wednesday.

Cha Cha Cha Encino will serve free chocolate-covered strawberries to all luncheon guests all week, and you don't have to prove yourself a secretary to get one.

Cha Cha Cha is at 17499 Ventura Blvd., just east of White Oak Avenue in Encino, (818) 789-3600.

Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at

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