Asia de Cuba de Wilshire: You may not recognize chef Eric Basulto's name, but you may very well know about his work. He helped open Patria in New York City, and most recently he was the corporate executive chef for Asia de Cuba, the Asian Cuban restaurants in ultra-hip hotels in New York City (Morgans Hotel) and L.A. (the Mondrian). He's decided to get into Nuevo Latino cuisine with a new restaurant opening next to the Conga Room (5364 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.). The owners of the Conga Room, who include Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Smits and Paul Rodriguez, acquired the restaurant space next door to the club last year. With Basulto's help, they'll turn it into a Latin fine-dining scene called La Boca del Conga Room (or Boca, for short), opening Oct. 21. Its menu will run to ancho-rubbed pork tenderloin, saffron seafood rice and grilled baby lamb chops. The restaurant above the club, called the Conga Cafe (now open only three nights a week), will be remodeled and open for lunch and dinner daily (also as of Oct. 21), serving such casual foods as Cuban pressed sandwiches, empanadas and ceviches.
French Food a Bon Marche: Denis Sidhoum, formerly a chef at L'Orangerie, has opened his own neighborhood spot on Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, Fourchette. In addition to L'Orangerie, Le Dome and Le Colonial in L.A., Sidhoum has worked in New York at Aureole. He also did a stint as Jack Nicholson's private chef. Now he's settled his family in Balboa and runs Fourchette practically by himself, pretty amazing for a chef with big credentials. Working in the kitchen every night, Sidhoum makes all the breads, pa^tes, sausages, salads, entrees and desserts his restaurant serves. Prices are ridiculously reasonable, with entrees topping out at $14 for the bouillabaisse. Steak frites will set you back $13; the escargot appetizer is $4; the lobster bisque, $3.50. Sidhoum says, "I opened this place for fun. It's like my house. I cook whatever I want." The decor is simple and the place seats only 45. Fourchette is open for dinner every night. Sidhoum doesn't plan to open for lunch any time soon.
* Fourchette, 103 Palm St., Balboa Peninsula; (949) 673-3263.
Indiana Jordan: Beverly Hills has gained an upscale Jordanian restaurant named Petra. On the menus--and covering one wall--is the image of the 2,000-year-old "treasury building" carved out of a sandstone cliff in the Jordanian archeological site Petra. (You may have seen a rendition of it in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.") Chef-owner Malek Abufailat explains the image this way: "When [people] see this picture, they know the owner is Jordanian and the food Middle Eastern." His idea is to serve authentic Jordanian-Middle Eastern food in an upscale setting (Abufailat used to be the chef of the late, lamented Al Amir, L.A.'s first upscale Middle Eastern restaurant). Petra serves classic mezze appetizers (hummus, baba ghannouj, stuffed grape leaves, falafel) and such main courses as lamb and chicken kebabs, grilled salmon and chicken shawarma. Prices run from $10.95 to $15.95 for entrees. Desserts, which can be had with Turkish coffee, include a baklava made with pistachios. (Oh, did I mention there's a belly dancer nightly from 8 to 10 p.m.?) Petra is open for lunch and dinner daily.
* Petra, 236 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 278-0444.
No Continent Is an Island: A restaurant loaded with boyish charm has just opened at an old Art Deco building in Beverly Hills: Oversized martini glasses set in the walls act as homes to multicolored beta fish; the decor is moderne--gray walls, black furniture, a midnight blue ceiling and there's a cushy VIP lounge upstairs. How this all fits the place's name--Continental--is a little mysterious, because chef Jason Segal tells us he's cooking pretty much the same Euro-Asian cuisine he did at Anacapa in Manhattan Beach, but customized for the lighter eaters of Beverly Hills. Segal lived in Hawaii for eight years and cooked his way around the islands, so you'll see lots of fish on his menu at Continental: herb-crusted ahi tuna, macadamia-crusted Northern halibut. (What took him away from paradise and brought him back to L.A., where he was born? He's also an aspiring musician.)
* Continental, Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (323) 782-9717.
Name the Thing: Mirabelle restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood has just acquired a 6-foot wooden sculpture for its dining room as the last phase of its remodel. The problem is, the owner doesn't know what to call it. That's where you come in. Wax creative enough and you can win a $200 gift certificate for food and drink at Mirabelle. Two runners-up will each receive a $50 gift certificate for food and drink. To play, ask your waiter for a contest form. Fill it out and turn it in by Nov. 10 at midnight and you may be able to tell your friends you named the giant lamp-like thing at Mirabelle.
* Mirabelle, 8768 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 659-6022.
For the Record: The bakery we told you about last week, Le Pain du Jour, is at 828 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica--not Los Angeles. Sorry for the confusion.
Pettera's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.