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Melrose Place Suits His Homey French Tastes


Dominoes: Alain Giraud, the French chef who left Lavande in February to open his own restaurant, has finally gotten his hands on a kitchen and some walls. The building is an old house converted into a restaurant. If you remember Le Restaurant from the '70s, you know which space we're talking about. More recently, 8475 Melrose Place was occupied by the Manhattan Wonton Company.

MWC owner Paul Heller says he's actively seeking a new spot for his won ton palace in L.A. or the Valley. Giraud apparently made Heller--who had been there for five years--an unrefusable offer. Giraud loves his new space and the neighborhood, which is filled with antique shops and specialty stores. "I couldn't dream of a better street," he says.

Giraud will redo the interior, aiming at an effect that's a little bit chic without stiffness. To put it another way, he wants it very French but not pretentious. He plans to put a chef's table in the room adjoining the kitchen and to add a wine cellar to the property. The three patios and the two dining rooms will remain. "I want to treat it like it will be my house in Provence," he tells us. Giraud will call his restaurant Bastide, after a country house in the South of France. He's aiming to have it open in February or March 2001.

Lavande replaces Giraud with Yves Bainier, who comes to L.A. from France via Australia, where he worked at the Ritz-Carlton Double Bay in Sydney. He's been to L.A. before, though. Bainier was the sous-chef at Le Do^me on the Sunset Strip back in '88. At Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, his duties will include overseeing Lavande and the new Papillon lobby bar and fireside lounge, which replaced the Ocean Cafe and lobby bar in the hotel's recent remodel. He's already changed the brunch buffet and installed a chef de cuisine in Lavande. Jeffrey Nimer, from Miami, will man Lavande's stoves nightly. Says Bainier of the culinary theme of the hotel, "We will stay [with] the South of France/Mediterranean theme." Lavande's new menu will be in place in two to three weeks. Papillon's menu will be in place by mid-October.

* Lavande, in the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, 1700 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 576-3180.

Water Grill South: Michael Cimarusti, the chef at Water Grill seafood restaurant downtown, called to tell us about a new place he just helped open in San Diego. Royale Brasserie is also owned by King Seafood Company, the entity responsible for the Water Grill, Ocean Avenue Seafood in Santa Monica and Clearwater Seafood in Pasadena. Royale, bedecked in hardwood and bright brass, offers more meat choices than its fish-heavy cousins.

Hanger steak and frites comes with a choice of sauces ($12.95); veal liver is dressed with a shallot sauce ($11.95); Muscovy duck breast comes with peaches, cherries and rhubarb ($16.50). Mind you, there's still a prominent oyster bar, decorated with hand-painted tile. And oceanic items like pan-roasted salmon ($13.95), skate wing grenobloise ($13.50) and frog's legs Provencal ($14.95) dot the menu as well. Cimarusti hired Hans Trevor-Gossman, with whom he worked at Le Cirque in New York, to execute the menu every day. Wonyee Tom, Water Grill's pastry chef, set up the dessert menu. Now that Royale is open, Cimarusti and Wonyee are free to head back to L.A. and the kitchen of Water Grill this week.

* Royale Brasserie & Bar, 224 5th Ave., San Diego; (619) 237-4900.

Dan in the Box: Boxer restaurant has seen a changing of the chefs. Brooke Williamson has departed, leaving a space for Daniel Wright to step into. Wright comes from Chicago, where he was the sous-chef at Zealous, a Cal-French spot way over there two time zones away. Before that he learned about eclectic American cuisine at Blackbird, also in the Windy City. Here at Boxer, Wright tells us, "I do my version of what I think American food is these days." That translates into diver scallops with poi in a coconut-lemongrass broth ($17) and New Zealand rack of lamb with fig relish ($18).

* Boxer, 7615 W. Beverly Blvd., L.A.; (323) 932-6178.

One Joe Less: The two guys at Joe Joe's in Sherman Oaks have gone their separate ways. James Dresser bought out partner Thomas Munoz about four months ago. Dresser replaced him in the kitchen with former sous-chef Leon Cruz. Cruz has been in the Joe's family for years; he has been sous-chef at Joe's in Venice. So the menu hasn't changed much. (Says Dresser, "We changed a couple of things, but it's definitely the same feel.") The menu lists a new rib eye steak, topped with melted blue cheese and seated in a Port wine reduction. For winter, Dresser will put an awning over his patio and keep it warm with gas heaters.

* Joe Joe's, 13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 990-8280.


Angela Pettera can be reached at (213) 237-3153 or at

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