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L’Ermitage May Soon Be Jezebel West

L’Ermitage gets soul: Alberta Wright, owner of New York’s Jezebel, is about to buy the venerable La Cienega institution. When the restaurant closed its doors last year, there was speculation that it would become a Japanese restaurant. Then it was slated to become another French restaurant. Wrong. Now it seems that Wright will be opening a West Coast branch of her yuppie soul food restaurant on the site.

Wright could not be reached for comment, but her son Donald confirmed that his mother is in the process of buying the restaurant. He would not confirm the names of his mother’s celebrity partners, but industry sources say actors Denzel Washington and Keenen Ivory Wayans will be investors.

Meanwhile, Laurent Quenioux, who also made an offer on L’Ermitage, hasn’t given up hope. “If they fall out of escrow,” says the Seventh Street Bistro chef/owner, “we will be right there.”

FISH STORY: “When I was living in Los Angeles,” says chef Elka Gilmore, “I spent countless hours struggling to find raw food.” Things are different, says Gilmore, now that she’s gone north to open a seafood restaurant.

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Gilmore says that the quality of raw food in San Francisco is much better. And she should know. Although she’s only 30 years old, Gilmore has already had quite a career. After six years as chef at Camelions in Santa Monica, she became chef-owner of the short-lived Tumbleweed in Beverly Hills. She was then hired as executive chef at Checkers Hotel (she was gone before the downtown hotel even opened). Next she became owner/chef of Palette, a dance club in West Hollywood. And, she says, she was also “kind of in the wholesale seafood business in Los Angeles for a while.”

Gilmore’s latest endeavor, Elka, will open on Thursday adjacent to San Francisco’s Miyako Hotel in Japantown. “The hotel had one fine-dining restaurant,” says Gilmore, “which was basically pretty lousy so they hired me about six months ago to come and be the executive chef (the hotel has 13 banquet rooms). In return for doing all this grunt work, I get my own restaurant.”

Gilmore has hired some high-class help. Tracy Des Jardins, former chef at Patina, is night chef. “She’s way better than I could ever hope to be,” says Gilmore. And Dana Farkas, who worked with Gilmore at Checkers and Tumbleweed, is the pastry chef.

“It took me 10 years to convince myself I liked living in L. A.,” says Gilmore, “and a minute to change my mind when I moved up here.”

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FOR SALE: Pssst. Wanna open a restaurant? How does a 12,000-square-foot room with 50-foot molded ceilings sound? Now consider polished pink Tennessee marble floors, eggshell-colored Botticino wainscoting and 17-foot-high chandeliers. The former waiting room at New York’s Grand Central Terminal was closed for renovation in August, 1989; $4.3 million later, it is looking for a tenant. For additional information, call the director of the Grand Center Terminal Development Office at (212) 878-7262.


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