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So Long, Tom Bergin

New owner plans to turn the popular spot into a grill club, complete with butler-like waiters and a patio.

July 30, 1998|ANGELA PETTERA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Butler, in the Dining Room, With the Knife: Restaurateur Fred Eric of Vida has just bought Tom Bergin's, the classic Irish steakhouse at 840 Fairfax Ave. Bergin's heyday as a hangout was in the '40s and '50s (incidentally, it had been moved brick by brick from its original location on Wilshire Boulevard), but it's always had a loyal clientele (particularly on St. Patrick's Day).

Eric plans to turn it into a grill club that he describes as "bungalow style meets barnyard." Think aged prime rib and Porterhouse, New York and filet steaks cooked in a wood-burning grill and served with little pans of sourdough bread. Eric wants to have specials of Argentine and Japanese Kobe beef as well. Plans are in the works for tanks in the kitchen to hold live fish, prawns, eels and lobster. The menu will be a la carte, so you can choose your potato side dish (fingerling, mashed, maybe hash browns?). Salads and appetizers will be traditional American.

The decor will be simple and comfortable; Bergin's old shamrock symbol is gone, but the wood accents will remain, and an outdoor patio is being constructed. Alan Ludwig (who was the opening manager of the Grill in Beverly Hills) will preside over the table service, which is envisioned as rather butlerish. Eric wants to name the place after a butler; working title is Jeeves' Grill Club. (We vote for Mr. French's.) Plans are to open sometime around December.

FOR THE RECORD - EATS: Restaurant Reviews and News RESTAURANT NEWS Bergin's Gets a New Lease on Fairfax Life * But Fred Eric of Vida is once more looking for a home for his grill club, to be called Jeeves. By ANGELA PETTERA, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 17, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 49 Entertainment Desk 7 inches; 238 words Type of Material: Correction
Sorry, Jeeves: It seems a little real estate wheeling and dealing wasn't quite complete when we reported a few weeks back that Fred Eric of Vida was set to take over Tom Bergin's on Fairfax. The property's owner, John Makhani, says he had a verbal agreement with both Eric and the owners of Tom Bergin's until this week, when Makhani signed a lease with Bergin's. But Eric maintains that he has a signed lease with Makhani. However, that's not what Makhani says. "No, he doesn't. My office may have sent him a standard lease, but not a signed lease." Makhani also says he had explained to Eric that he couldn't make any final commitment until the present tenant (Tom Bergin's) moved out, "but I did tell him that the present tenant had no interest in staying."
Until now the owners of Tom Bergin's, T.K. Vodrey and his partner Michael Mandekic, had only a month-to-month lease with Makhani. Vodrey confirms he and Mandekic weren't interested in extending their lease. But once word hit that Eric was considering the space, Vodrey and Mandekic parted ways, allowing Vodrey to sign a one-year lease with a five-year conditional renewal clause. That leaves Eric out in the cold.
Eric tells us, "I have two options: either I sue [Makhani] myself, which I'm not going to do because it's not worth the time, or I have to find another location."
Meanwhile, he's had to tell everyone he'd already hired that the grill club, which he planned to call Jeeves, is on hold for the moment. "What can you do?" Eric asks. "You win some, you lose some."
Vodrey took the plunge because, he says, "I had a great feeling that if we lose Bergin's, then [L.A. will] lose Musso & Frank's, and then there's nothing left [of the old L.A. chop houses]," he says.

It's About Time: Pagani, the new venture of mai^tre d'-turned-restaurateur George Pagani, will finally, after MTA-like construction and licensing delays, be opening its doors Monday; it'll serve lunch and dinner every day except Sunday.

* Pagani, 8800 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 858-5801.

All Roads Lead to Vegas: Someone in Las Vegas is doing a bang-up job recruiting restaurants from L.A. and San Francisco. Bellagio, a 3,000-room hotel-resort-casino being built on the Strip at 3600 Las Vegas Blvd., opens Oct. 15 with Aqua from San Francisco as one of its 13 full-service restaurants. Julian Serrano of Masa's (also San Francisco) will head up another restaurant, Picasso by Serrano. (He's leaving Masa's in mid-August to do so.) La Brea Bakery will be baking for the restaurants, now in the new mammoth as well. Another new casino, the Venetian, slated to open in spring next year, has specialized in L.A. chefs. It's got Piero Selvaggio's Valentino and Joachim Splichal's Pinot Vegas going in. Finally, Nobu Matsuhisa will be opening a Matsuhisa in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in May.

Goodbye, Bob: Bob Burns Restaurant in Newport Beach will be closing at the end of this year to make room for more clothing stores in Fashion Island, but you'll still be able to eat there until Dec. 30. The New Year's Eve party on closing night will be a huge hug-fest with live music and menu specials from the restaurant's 30 years. Owner Elizabeth Burns still hopes to find a replacement location somewhere in Orange County. The closing doesn't affect the Bob Burns locations in Santa Monica and Woodland Hills.

New Bites: The Grill on the Alley in Beverly Hills is revisiting its Sunday night New England clambake, at which you can stuff your face with clam chowder, a 1 1/4-pound Maine lobster, half a dozen steamed clams, about four Alaskan king crab legs, corn on the cob and roasted red potatoes for $36.50 a person. And you get to wear a tidy linen bib. Call (310) 276-0615 for reservations. . . . Le Chardonnay is celebrating Swiss National Day (Saturday) throughout August with specialties from chef-owner Maurice Constantin's homeland (that would be, well, Switzerland). Call to find out which dishes are on the $25 Swiss prix-fixe menu that night and for reservations (213) 655-8880. . . . North, the new restaurant and bar at 8029 Sunset Blvd., is now open for your snacking and imbibing pleasure. . . . Citrus is making its own bread these days--oddly, all Italian: Lombard, focaccia and ciabatta.

Insect Snacking: Typhoon hosts its seventh annual Asian Night Market Aug. 8. From 6 p.m. to midnight sample tastes of the Philippines, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Fiji, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Bali. For $32.50 you get all the food and non-alcoholic drinks you can handle, including Taiwanese-style crickets and Manchurian Changbai ants. And if you wear a sarong or kimono, they'll knock 10% off of the admission price. Children under 12 are half-price in any case, and those under 3 are free.

* Typhoon, 3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica; (310) 390-6565.

Say It Ain't So, Jimmy: We goofed last week. Jimmy's will be closed for renovations as of Aug. 17, not Aug. 19. Sorry.

Send hot tips and other information to Pettera@mci2000.com

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