“If they put me in the cockpit of a 747, I wouldn’t know how to take off,” says Wolfgang Puck. He mentions this in the course of discussing the closure of Eureka, his West Los Angeles restaurant and brewery, which has not reopened since the riots. The point, says Puck, is that he didn’t know how to make beer either.
Puck says the restaurant portion of Eureka was doing very well--but that it only accounted for 25% of the operation. The other 75%, the beer, was a problem. “Nobody can run the equipment,” says Puck, “and we can’t afford it.” So he is trying to persuade the Germans from which he bought the beer equipment to take it back. After several meetings with the group, says Puck, “things are working out.”
Puck says the restaurant will definitely reopen, but all beer production has stopped. “I am not,” he says, “going to sell my house just to make beer.”
BIKINISKI: “I just got back from Moscow and St. Petersburg and the food is pretty abominable,” says Bikini’s John Sedlar. “So I am doing some modern Russian cuisine at Bikini.” Sedlar’s Russian “menu within a menu,” will feature dishes such as sturgeon with beets, venison borscht and salmon stroganoff Romanoff, with entrees priced from 1,710 to 2,160 rubles (that’s $19 to $24). Is food as scarce in Russia as it’s reputed to be? “No,” says Sedlar, “the shelves are full of food. People just can’t afford it.”
SALMON RUN: The world’s best salmon is starting to arrive in some of L.A.'s best seafood restaurants. Unfortunately, the fishing season for Copper River salmon is brief--it will only last about five weeks--and the fish is expensive. But it’s worth every penny. We found the fish at the following Los Angeles restaurants:
Simon & Seafort’s in Long Beach will have the fresh fish for about three weeks. The fish will be $13.95 at lunch and $19.95 at dinner.
“Copper River salmon will be on our menu as long as it stays in season,” says Opus chef Ian Winslade. “It just depends on what I can get from my supplier in Seattle.” The Santa Monica restaurant will price the fish at $26.
Long Beach’s Pine Avenue Grill hasn’t quite decided whether or not to buy the intensely colored salmon. “Due to the recession,” says the restaurant’s Tom O’Brien, “we are trying to keep our prices below $15.95.” O’Brien says wholesale prices for Copper River salmon are currently between $7.50 and $8.50 a pound, which means Pine Avenue Grill would have to charge its customers $18.95 for the fish. “I am working with my purveyor right now,” O’Brien says, “and if they do a good size buy on it, I will probably get it in.”
The fish is also available at Cutters in Santa Monica.
BETTER TASTE?: L.A. a la Carte, a four-day food and music festival featuring tastings from over 35 Los Angeles restaurants, will be held the weekends of Aug. 8-9 and 15-16 on the grounds of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Produced by the JW Event Group (which also produces Taste of Orange County) and partly sponsored by The Times, this year’s festival replaces the Seagram’s-sponsored Taste of L.A. The latter, Southern California’s largest food festival, went out of business last year, leaving dozens of suppliers, entertainers and workers unpaid.
BREAK-IN BREAD: Two pranksters, feeling no pain after a night on the town, recently strolled into the La Brea Bakery at 4 a.m. Posing as the bakery’s new comptroller and new employee, they breezily informed the crew that owner Nancy Silverton had asked them to inspect the premises. They spent about 20 minutes in the bakery poking around and asking questions, until one of the real workers began to seem suspicious. Says the ringleader, “You know, Silverton really uses great ingredients.”
COMMUNICATION 101: Most misunderstandings in restaurants are due to poor communication. So says Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, who has spent the last two years training the service staff of some of America’s best restaurants and hotels. Goldstein, director of the Sterling Vineyards School of Service and Hospitality, warns that “communication is a two-way street. " His solution? Courses in better service . . . for service professionals and for customers. And we thought the customer was always right. . . .
STIRRING IT UP: It’s a tie for the bad taste of the week award. One goes to Engine Company No. 28, located in a restored firehouse Downtown, for printing the following message on each check: “Remember, it’s a jungle out there “
Also to David Slay of La Veranda for rubbing our noses in it. The Beverly Hills restaurateur mailed out cards boasting that “Beverly Hills was virtually untouched by the rioting, . . . and is one of the safest areas in Los Angeles County.”