St. Mark’s, the jazz club-cum-California/French restaurant that opened in Venice earlier this year is going through changes. First, Francois Petit, who helped start St. Mark’s and ran the restaurant portion of the operation, has left. His one-time colleague Mike Quinn, who had originally confined his activities to the music end of the place, has taken over both the restaurant and the club as operating partner. He hopes to reclaim the interest of the dining public. Gil Saulnier, who had been chef at the now-defunct Le St. Germain in Hollywood before joining St. Mark’s as executive chef, remains in charge of the kitchen.
“Basically,” Quinn says, “we found that the music kind of overshadowed the restaurant at times. But we have so much good talent in the kitchen that we feel we have to represent them strongly. We’re trying to give people a style of music now that’s more compatible with dining and with the style of our food. What was happening with some of the bands we booked, especially when we had dancing, was that the room changed a little too fast and a little too radically from early to late--so that people who were in here dining would sometimes feel that they were sitting in a different place than the one they had come into. Now we’re starting the music earlier, around 6:30 or 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, but it’s more low-key, with usually a piano player who sings, and a bassist and guitarist. Our idea is to have a big-name entertainer come in once every two or three months to kind of highlight the place.” The menu, he adds, has changed slightly since St. Mark’s opened. Pizzas, for instance, are now available as appetizers. “It’s in response to the seasons,” Quinn says, “and to what people seemed to like and want.”
FENNEL GOES BISTRO: According to restaurateur Mauro Vincenti, his Fennel in Santa Monica--whose kitchen is the province of Jean-Pierre Bosc and alternating French-based chefs Michel Rostang, Andre Genin, Michel Chabran and Yann Jacquot--is in the process of being transformed into a more casual, less expensive restaurant. “The chefs want to make it into a bistro,” he says. “The main reason is that Michel Rostang, besides his own restaurant, has three very successful bistros now in Paris, and he would like to do something like that here.” (Genin also has a bistro in addition to his main Paris restaurant, Chez Pauline.)
The restaurant will be remodeled to look more bistro-like, Vincenti adds, and there will be plenty of new ideas on the menu. He expects the changes to be complete by early next year. But, he adds, “We’re dealing with permits and things now, and you know how that can go.”