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Growth Pains Walloped Moomba in Wallet

July 25, 2002|JESSICA STRAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Moomba Files for Chapter 11: It was only a year and a half ago that the New York hot spot Moomba opened a West Hollywood outpost. With its overflowing bar, red dining rooms, wraparound patio, entertainment space and private downstairs room, Moomba quickly became a watering hole for the young Hollywood set. But according to owner Jeff Gossett, the sheer size of the sprawling, opulently decorated space caused problems. "We were inundated with pre-opening construction costs," he says, "and in order to relieve the pressure and stress from the debt, we filed." Despite the bankruptcy filing, he remains upbeat. "We're still here doing great things culinarily wise, and have lots of interesting entertainment. It's always fun here at Moomba," he insists.

We have, however, noted a sharp falloff in the crowds and star wattage in recent months.

From Hofbrau to Falcon: If success in real estate is location, location, location, it's sometimes more true with restaurants. Some spots seem plagued with bad karma, while others act like magnets, attracting hordes of people under each and every incarnation. The legendary Fritzi's Vienna Hofbrau on Sunset Boulevard used to occupy one of those lucky locales. Now it's morphed into a restaurant and club called Falcon. The name is a reference to silent film star Rudolph Valentino's old residence, which he called Falcon Lair, which inspired the trendy decor. Partners Tommy Stoilkovich and Mike Garrett are the brains behind Voda, Lounge 217 and Pearl Dragon, while partner Keith McCarthy is a veteran of Jones Hollywood. A brushed, stainless-steel wind chime curtain, ebony plank floors, walls of zebrawood and faux alpaca fur ottomans set the scene. Somehow the word "jungle" springs to mind. But the food from chef Matthew Dickson is pure comfort. "My menu is dictated by what's in season, not by what's cool," says the former Rockenwagner chef de cuisine. Dickson is a busy guy: He not only bakes his own breads and cures his own olives, he also makes his own pastas, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. And on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m.

* Falcon, 7213 Sunset Blvd., (323) 850-5350.

Firefly Alights: Monique King, formally executive chef at Border Grill and most recently owner-chef of Soul Kitchen in Chicago, has come back home. With her husband, Paul Rosenbluh (who is also a chef), and her father, actor Carl Weintraub, she's opened Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena. She's replanted the outdoor restaurant with lots of herbs, fuchsia and periwinkle hydrangea, even some grapevines. For the summer, she's hung diaphanous curtains and installed misting systems for cooling. King describes the menu as "a real melting pot of cuisines" with influences from the American South and the Caribbean as well as southern Italy, Spain and Morocco. "The food will be a little bit bold and in your face."

* Firefly Bistro, 1009 El Centro Ave., South Pasadena, (626) 441-2443.

Summer Barbecue: On Sunday, Lucques will hold its annual summer barbecue with family-style platters of pork ribs, beef ribs, chicken wings, cornbread, coleslaw and plum brown betty. There'll be lots of cheap bottled beer, and for those who like a refreshing stiff drink, they'll have Lynchberg lemonade spiked with bourbon on hand at 8474 Melrose Ave. Information: (323) 655-6277.

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