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THE MIXER

Hey, where did the whole orchestra go?

September 02, 2004|Valli Herman | Times Staff Writer

The concert ended with a thundering bang, and the streets of Bunker Hill were bustling with Disney Hall patrons, ushers and musicians.

"Where does anyone get a drink around here?" I asked a wild-haired violinist hurrying down Grand. "There," he said, pointing his instrument case toward Kendall's, the French brasserie tucked under green awnings at First and Grand. And then I noticed: Anyone in a tuxedo was heading away from Patina, that temple of drinking and dining at Disney Hall, and not just because it's pricey.

"It's only got five bar stools," the string player complained. And besides, he shouted, "we get a discount at Kendall's!"

Got it. Patina is the rich patrons' shrine; Kendall's is the performers' hangout. Whether it's after a Los Angeles Philharmonic concert at Disney, a Placido Domingo opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Ahmanson, the central watering hole for the people on or behind the stage is Kendall's.

Inside the brasserie, it looks and sounds like belle epoque Paris. European accents filter through rooms that are decorated with antiques plucked from French bistros. The musicians, clad in classic formal wear that hasn't changed much in 100 years, gather around the bar and tall communal tables.

My violinist disappears into the tuxedoed crowd already filling the 34 bar stools and the 200-seat dining rooms. Waitresses step carefully around instrument cases littering the floor as they deliver frites in silver cups and platters of oysters, plucked from the fruits de mer case, displayed stage left of the bar. Plates slide between clusters of whisky cocktails, red wine, pink martinis and the many meaty beers and ales served on tap.

Every few minutes, performers in various stages of repair walk, limp or burst through the bistro doors and deposit their music cases or bags full of music, makeup or shoes. Dancers from the opera seek muscle pain relief in a sip of wine while they recount their on-stage accidents -- a twisted knee, a wrenched back, a missed catch. Exhausted violinists cool their fingers on a chilly glass of beer, while knowing fans nod recognition at the musicians and singers they've just seen on stage.

Too soon, it's 11 p.m., according to the clock above the bar that keeps patrons and performers punctual. It's restaurant policy to stay open at least one hour after the latest performance, encores included. Yet nearly every seat is taken, the beer, booze and bistro fare are flowing.

I savor my last sip of Belgian Benedictine monks' ale -- served in a chalice -- and start to feel that this revival may stay around town for a while. The post-show show at Kendall's is the unscripted epilogue of every performance -- and it changes every night.

*

Kendall's Brasserie

Where: 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

When: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Cost: Wine by the glass, $7 to $15. Draft and bottled beer, $5 to $8. Cocktails, $6 to $10.

Info: (213) 972-7322

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