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Splichal Vets Take Over Where Drai Left Off


After Drai, What? In case you hadn't noticed, Victor Drai's place on La Cienega Boulevard closed its doors after dinner on Monday. The official word is that Drai figured he needed a change, so he decided to let go of his super-trendy West Hollywood spot (he still has his Las Vegas restaurant). Taking over the space is a faction of Joachim Splichal restaurant alumni: former Pinot Hollywood chef Jon Fernow, former Cafe Pinot chef Reiner Schwartz and former Patina sommelier Bill Priestly. They plan to open their new restaurant within the next three weeks or so.

That Zen Jazz: Elaine Johnston and Ryuichi Mahada, alumni of La Boheme and Monsoon, opened a pan-Asian place called the Zen Grill on Beverly Boulevard not long ago. The menu includes Malaysian laksa noodle soup, a sashimi tuna rice tower and teriyaki Chilean sea bass. A Buddha smiling at you from the front window contributes to the atmosphere, as does the soft jazz wafting from the speakers.

* Zen Grill, 8432 W. 3rd St., L.A.; (323) 655-9991.

Going Public: The boys at JiRaffe in Santa Monica have invited an old friend over for dinner. To cook dinner, that is. Chris Minutoli, who once cooked at Chinois on Main and Granita, has been working for private families in Barbados and Europe lately. Tonight and for the next two nights, he'll be producing a four-course meal for $48 a person; individual courses are also available a la carte. They include seared foie gras with Calvados and a hazelnut-crusted turbot.

* JiRaffe, 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 917-6671.

Gourmet Touchdown: Gourmet Magazine's traveling Global Tastings event ends its nationwide tour at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica on Sunday. Mega-chefs from the Food Network cable channel, including Hot Tamales Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken and Mario Batali of "Mediterranean Mario," will be doing cooking demonstrations, and mega-restaurants from Patina to El Cholo will be dishing out tastes beginning at noon. Tickets are $75 a person--call (800) 949-2433 or buy at the door.

Call Him O.C. Pepin: The following day, Monday, Jacques Pepin will be doing a cooking demo at Troquet in South Coast Plaza at 6:30 p.m. Afterward, there's a six-course meal (paired with wines from Cambria Winery, Pepin's PBS sponsor) in his honor. You've got your Maine Peeky Toe crab salad, your sauteed skate wing, your ro^ti (roll) of squab, and your sweetbreads with wild mushrooms and black truffle jus, your lamb osso buco, and so on. The $200 tab includes a Pepin cookbook, with the proceeds directly benefiting KCET-TV, since Cambria Winery is underwriting the event. Call (323) 953-5642 for reservations.

* Troquet, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa; (714) 708-6865.

Wines of the World: On Tuesday throughout this month, Tony Di Lembo, chef-owner of Tahiti, is making it his mission to introduce people to the glories of international wines that go well with his international cuisine. On Sunday, for instance, you will be able to drink a glass (or more) of a northern Californian Claret, a South African Chardonnay, a French Champagne and a Chilean Cabernet for only $10, as long as you're drinking with dinner. You may sample as many of those four wines as you like. Tahiti is open for dinner only, nightly.

* Tahiti, 7910 W. 3rd St., L.A.; (323) 651-1213.

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