One of the great joys of life in Los Angeles is its aspiration toward casualness at all costs. In this city, the more dressed down you are at an upscale restaurant the more likely it is that you are someone important.
And so it was on a recent Wednesday night at West Hollywood's new chichi Chinese restaurant, Philippe by Philippe Chow, that a sizable turnout of meticulously informal diners found themselves seated in the resplendent red-white-and-black dining room, nibbling on thimble-sized crispy duck rolls and sipping exotic fruit-based martinis.
The service, in the form of a virtual army of white jacket-clad servers and runners, was solicitous and stealthy. And the customer base was largely made up of well-heeled thirty- and fortysomethings, the kind that can afford to throw down $60 for drunken sea bass for two and $20 for a cocktail. So lots of bling, designer jeans, breezy cotton jackets, rumpled dress shirts, rugged shaves and plunging necklines.
Open a little over a month, Philippe is branded for its namesake, chef-partner Philippe Chow. Chow worked for more than 25 years at the classy Chinese restaurant Mr. Chow in Manhattan.
Michael Chow (the Mr. Chow) also owns a Beverly Hills location, and he recently filed a lawsuit against Philippe Chow for trademark infringement. It's a juicy dust-up that has generated loads of press for both Chows.
"You just cannot own certain names," says Philippe partner Stratis Morfogen, adding that Philippe ranked higher than Mr. Chow in the 2010 Zagat guide.
Semantics aside, both restaurants are known for attracting a celebrity clientele, so presumably these image-savvy diners know which Chow they're choosing.
Speaking of chow, Philippe's boasts a Beijing style of cooking, and although you are likely to find something more authentic in Chinatown or Monterey Park, you are unlikely to encounter the Technicolor dream coat of hues on your plate elsewhere. Candy-red chicken satay in light, refreshing peanut cream sauce; electric pesto-colored prawns with cashews and black mushrooms; robustly pink lobster; and sweet silvery cakes are just a few of the pleasingly plated offerings.
The overall vibe is upbeat and lively, with a chef occasionally popping out of the kitchen to perform an elaborate hand-pulled noodle routine. If only settling a legal battle could be as easy.
Philippe by Philippe Chow
Where: 8284 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight Mondays to Saturdays, 3 p.m. to midnight Sundays.
Price: Appetizers, $12 to $29; noodles and dumplings, $12 to $19; main courses for two, $44 to $135; cocktails, $15 to $25.
Contact: (323) 951-1100; www.philippechow.com