No More Neon: Monty's Steakhouse, the Westwood fixture set atop the Westwood Center building at 1100 Glendon Ave., has closed. Arden Realty Inc. purchased the building in early '98 with plans to renovate it completely from the outside in. Monty's had been entrenched in the penthouse since 1969 (the structure dates from '65). During its reign, its neon sign became a landmark and its dark interior saw lots of interesting events, including Snoop Doggy Dogg's acquittal party. It was also the spot for scores of recruitment dinners for UCLA athletes, including the infamous meal that led to basketball coach Jim Harrick's dismissal in November 1996.
Monty's managed to stay open during most of Arden's renovations (through boarded-up windows and jackhammer noises), which began in October, but only for a while. "It became in both of our best interests to sell out," says owner Michael Levine, grandson of Monty's founder Monty Levine.
Arden will convert the penthouse space to modern offices and install a restaurant on the ground floor when the construction is completed around January. Which restaurant, you ask? "We will be entertaining proposals from some upscale restaurant groups," says Senior Vice President Bart Porter.
As for Monty's future, Michael Levine tells us, "We will be back in the Village shortly. We have a few areas in mind right now." And he wants to extend his thanks to all the customers who've been loyal for so long. In the meantime, you can still have a huge steak and potato at Monty's Steakhouse in Pasadena or Woodland Hills.
No More Neon II: Lumpy Gravy, the Beverly Boulevard restaurant that aspired to be an artist's best friend, has closed its doors forever. Some think the too-loud music and the weird performance art drove away those who loved its food. It also didn't help that no fewer than 11 chefs headed the kitchen since its opening early last year. Fred Eric (Vida, Fred 62), who helped owner Gabor Csupo (creator of "Rugrats") open the place, said, "A mistake many people make is thinking that food and entertainment go together, but the fact is they're competitive. Too competitive." And so the mirror ball, the ceiling shark and the multiple TV screens are gone.
Chinois Shuffle: Makoto Tanaka has left his chef position at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica to open his own place with his friend and partner. He'll call it Sozo, which means "creative" in Japanese. (Phonetically, it's also Tanaka's father's first name.) "I'm Japanese, so of course [the cuisine is] going to be Asian," says Tanaka. "But I'm not going to make Chinois [food]." Sozo will open sometime down the road on Beverly Boulevard in Beverly Hills. When it does open, it will be upscale, but casual ("like California," he says).
Filling his kitchen clogs at Chinois is Takashi "Fred" Iwasaki, who was sous chef at the restaurant for about eight years. Like Tanaka, Iwasaki left Chinois to open his own restaurant, the Cal-French diner Carrots in Santa Monica. Iwasaki most recently comes from ZenZero in Santa Monica, currently closed for remodeling. Which is just as well, because he says he wasn't perfectly happy there. ZenZero's owners didn't want to change the menu at all. Here at Chinois, he can play around a little. And, as he says, "I'm so happy right now."
* Chinois on Main, 2709 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 392-9025.
An Equal and Opposite Reaction: Just so you're not depressed by the above restaurant closings, here are a couple of noteworthy openings to balance things out. Hans Rockenwagner's new casual eatery, Rock, opens July 19 in Marina del Rey at the Villa Marina Marketplace, 13455 Maxella Ave. The room, with its blue ceiling, features five private booths, two communal tables at which entrees will be served family style and a bar area with its own light menu designed to go with wines, sakes and other cordials. You will also be able to get little dishes like fennel-dill olives and Korean dumplings. Rock will be open nightly for dinner and a late bar menu. Call (310) 822-8979 for reservations. . . . The Zen Grill is now open in Sherman Oaks. It's the sister restaurant of Zen Grill on 3rd Street in L.A. You'll spot the new Zen at 14543 Ventura Blvd. by its bright red facade. It's open for lunch and dinner daily, call (818) 461-8444 for reservations.
Pann's Restaurant and Coffee Shop, an LAX-area institution, celebrates 40 years in business on Tuesday by offering a 1958 menu at 1958 prices. Pancakes are 50 cents; French fries, 35 cents; the dreamburger and BLT, 75 cents; spaghetti with meat sauce, 95 cents; and fish and chips (gulp), $1.45. Pann's will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
* Pann's Restaurant and Coffee Shop, 6710 La Tijera Blvd., L.A.; (310) 670-1441.
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