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After Many Moons, Jacoupy Is Ready to Open Lunaria

As restaurants sometimes remind us, with signs on the wall or notes on their menus, good food takes time to prepare. Restaurants themselves take even more time, though--as Bernard Jacoupy will gladly tell you.

He is finally about to open a restaurant he has been working on for at least four years--a place he calls Lunaria, on Santa Monica Boulevard near Beverly Glen Boulevard in West Los Angeles. According to Jacoupy--who was co-founder of the acclaimed Bernard’s in the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel downtown, and who, for the past four years, has been general manager of Le Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach--it took fully 2 1./2 years just to get the necessary permits for the place, because of local parking requirements and various neighborhood concerns. Now he expects to open sometime between Wednesday and June 4. “We’re not quite there,” he says, “but we’re almost there.”

Chef at the new establishment will be Dominique Chavanon, former chef de cuisine at Le Meridien’s Antoine Restaurant. In a way, though, the real star of the place--and certainly one of the principal inspirations--figures to be Jacoupy’s late grandfather, Andre Montpellier, who was an accomplished amateur painter and a friend of such noted French Catalan artists as Aristide Maillol.

“I have a unique collection of about 130 paintings of his,” says Jacoupy, “all done between 1890 and 1940, almost all of them of the back country behind Perpignan. These will be featured at the restaurant, along with works by several other artists who are rather more contemporary. The menu, too, will be very much impressed by the area of Perpignan, and the French Mediterranean in general.”

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Even the name of the restaurant, he adds, is a tribute to his grandfather. “ Lunaria annua , or ‘money plant’ was his favorite plant,” Jacoupy explains. “Everybody thinks it has something to do with the moon, but it’s really a botanical name--which is, fortunately, easy to remember and to pronounce. In one way, of course, Lunaria does have to do with the moon--since you have to be a lunatic to open a restaurant in the first place.”

JAY STAYS: Last year, Jay Fiondello, proprietor of the veteran Santa Monica restaurant Chez Jay, announced that he was being forced to close his establishment after all these years and move to new premises because his landlord, the RAND Corp., needed the space for expansion. Chez Jay, however, is still in business on the site. What gives?

“I was going to move down Main Street, onto a piece of property that I had bought myself 20 years ago,” says Fiondello, “but I got shot down by the locals. There’s an ordinance that prohibits any new restaurants on Main Street right now. I fought it, and finally got permission to put my own restaurant on my own property--and then I got shot down on the liquor license. So that deal’s off. Luckily, Rand has extended my lease at least till the end of the year, so it’ll be business as usual in the old place until then.”

FUTURE SCHLOCK: A chilling view of the culinary future: According to a press release from the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Council, Floreale, at the community’s Ramada Renaissance Hotel, is about to debut a new dinner menu “to keep a step ahead of changing culinary trends.” Among the dishes to be included--for all you culinary trend-spotters out there--are sole topped with toasted almonds and fresh bananas, filet mignon with a Benedictine rosemary mousseline , and Brie rolled in almonds and served with garlic toast and pecan blackberry chutney.

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WHAT’S COOKING: The original Uncle Tai’s Mandarin Gourmet in Studio City has spawned an offspring of the same name in Encino. . . . Louis (Bif) Caruso, proprietor of Caruso and Me in San Pedro, has taken over the Melrose Avenue site near La Cienega that formerly housed (in succession) an All-American Burger, Bono’s, Silvio’s and (briefly) Ashley’s--and plans to open a second place, called simply Caruso’s, there. The San Pedro restaurant will remain open as usual. . . . Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach celebrates its 15th anniversary this month. . . . And Steven Sponder, proprietor of the Palace Cafe in Santa Barbara, has just celebrated his establishment’s fifth anniversary by flying his entire staff to New Orleans for a three-day dining and sightseeing binge.


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