Light Southern Reign: Southern cuisine has officially moved upscale, way upscale, with the opening of Reign in Beverly Hills. The owner is Keyshawn Johnson, the former USC wide receiver who plays for the New York Jets. Herve Barbaroux (who used to manage at L'Ermitage, Granita, Spago and Le Dome) runs the front of the house. He's responsible for the ultra-modern square glass plates etched with Reign's logo and the square frosted glass flower holders on each table.
Are you sensing a pattern here? The place resembles a museum of modern art with lots of glass, polished metals and blond wood. Original paintings hang on the tall walls, and a flat-screen TV entertains you while you wait for your table. Two floors of seating are balanced by a long, sleek bar. In the back of the space sits a private lounge with its own bar, brick fireplace and two more flat-screen TVs.
The chef is Gerry Garvin, who opened Kass Bah and most recently cooked American at Morton's. At Reign, he says, "We're doing Californian with a Southern flair." It's Southern dishes (Maryland crab cakes, fried green tomatoes, smothered pork chops) and lighter items such as salads and seafood. Collards, black-eyed peas and other classic Southern sides are available either with or without meat. "It's a nice menu," Garvin says, "it's not so heavy." Appetizers and salads run from $6 to $11; entrees cost between $16.50 and $27. Reign is currently open for dinner Monday through Saturday.
* Reign, 180 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 273-4463.
The Artists Can Eat Again: Silvio De Mori and Jean-Pierre Bosc (who own Mimosa on Beverly Boulevard) have finished remodeling their latest acquisition, Cafe des Artistes in Hollywood. It will open for dinner on June 21. Silvio "you-know-I-like-banquettes" De Mori has added plenty of them to the dining room and even the patio. Inside, the tables are wood, matched with European chairs. Outside, they might be wood, marble or mosaic. Newspapers and magazines will be lying about for handy reading "because it's a relaxing place," De Mori says. Bosc is in charge of the kitchen's French cafe food. (Meanwhile, Yvon Ripiquet, who's been working with Bosc for the last year, will take over at Mimosa, under De Mori's guiding hand.) Cafe des Artistes will initially open for dinner only, with lunch and Sunday brunch coming along a few weeks later. Reservations will only be taken for parties of five or more.
* Cafe des Artistes, 1534 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood; (323) 461-6889.
The New Tide: The Shark Bar Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard is moving toward deeper water, restaurant-wise. Christ Hale, former general manager (and defensive back for the Buffalo Bills), no longer runs the front of the room like a nightclub. Instead, Marlene Clark, who used to be the general manager at Hal's Bar & Grill in Venice (you may also remember her from some 1970s movies and "Sanford & Son" on television), has taken over. That means a tougher dress code at the door, for one thing, and more emphasis on the food and wine list. Joining her is new chef Deborah Kelly from Chicago. Kelly has been tweaking the menu and expanding the wine list to better match the food. Expect to see live jazz every Tuesday from 7-11 p.m. and celebrations for Juneteenth (June 19) and Father's Day (June 20).
* The Shark Bar, 826 N. La Cienega Blvd.; (310) 652-1520.
Your Guide to Guides: Gayot Publications, which brought you "The Best of Los Angeles" guide to restaurants, hotels, shops and clubs, has just come out with "The Best of Beverly Hills," which similarly scrutinizes recreation in that famed city of excess. Since dining is what we're concerned with here, just know that Alain Gayot and his staff of editors chowed down at, and rated, 33 Beverly Hills restaurants and gave a nod to 58 more casual eateries, bagel joints and tea rooms. You can grab a copy at area bookstores or visit the Gayot Publications Web site at http://www.gayot.com.
For more online restaurant ratings, check out Zagat's newly updated Web site at http://www.zagat.com, which now features a section on dining in Los Angeles. Also posted is the Diner's Bill of Rights, a work in progress by Tim and Nina Zagat, who hope to spur the restaurant industry to provide better service through their tongue-lashing. You can even fill out a survey online if you wish.
Books for Babes: All the Southern California McCormick & Schmick's locations currently are running a charity book drive to help provide books to underprivileged and abused children at five area shelters. What you do: Drop off a brand-new children's book appropriate for tots under 18 at any one of the five local McCormick & Schmick's (in Irvine, downtown L.A., Pasadena, El Segundo or Beverly Hills) during their operating hours from now until July 5. Or simply order a new book from the Book Menu at each restaurant to be sent to a shelter in your name. What you get: a feeling of positive self-worth and a gift certificate for an appetizer or dessert. For phone numbers and addresses of the restaurants, you can call the corporate headquarters at (888) 344-6861 and press 4, or you can visit its Web site at http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com.
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