A Wolfgang Puck Outpost at Chasen's?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wolfgang Puck may be bringing one of his Wolfgang Puck's Cafes to the spot where Chasen's has been feeding Presidents and movie stars for 58 years. As reported earlier, the venerable West Hollywood restaurant will be closing April 1 to make way for a two-story shopping center that is expected to open in late 1996. According to sources, Puck, who is eager to expand his chain of casual restaurants that offer diluted versions of his Spago dishes, contacted developer Ira Smedra to discuss opening an outpost at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Doheny Drive.

"I haven't signed anything," says Puck. "It's not even around the corner. They still have to tear it down and then they have to build it."

A scaled-down version of Chasen's was part of the deal from day one, but that doesn't mean Puck is out of the picture. The Wolfgang Puck Co. "asked us for a meeting," says Smedra. "We haven't made any commitments until we hear back from the Chasen family to get their final footage."

Smedra also called his friend Bob Spivak, the founder of the Grill in Beverly Hills and the popular Daily Grill chain, to see if he would be interested in coming on board. Spivak, who is already a tenant at Smedra's shopping center at Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, declined Smedra's offer. "I doubt we'll go in," says Spivak. "I'm not interested in moving the Grill and we already have a Daily Grill within a mile of Chasen's."

The closing of Chasen's was one of the worst-kept secrets in town. The landmark restaurant was rumored to be for sale as early as last January when it was hinted that Bob Morris, who dreamed up such establishments as RJ's, the Jetty, Gladstone's and Country Star at Universal CityWalk, had expressed interest in the property.

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Against the Odds: Veteran restaurateur/Elvis Presley co-star Nicky Blair, who closed his eponymous Sunset Strip restaurant at the end of last year, has signed a deal with the Howard Hughes Corp. to open a version of the Northern Italian restaurant in the giant Hughes Las Vegas business center. This isn't the first time, however, that Blair has had his eye on the desert. Four years ago, Blair planned to open a New York-style steakhouse in the Forum Shops mall. But that never panned out.

About a year later, Blair talked to what he described as "very important Italians," who flew him first-class to Milan to discuss franchising his glitzy restaurant. "The food over there is not that great," Blair told Calendar at the time. "My Italian food is better. They just cook normal."

Then Blair announced he was going to launch a chain of Peach Pits modeled after the restaurant on the TV series "Beverly Hills, 90210." We're still waiting. The first was due to open in September in the Beverly Center. Beverly Center's marketing director, Evette Caceres, says negotiations are ongoing, but "no lease has been signed yet."

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Watering Hole: Two months ago, Lunaria hosted the unveiling of Perrier de menthe, a minty French concoction consisting of mint syrup and Perrier sparkling water on ice. This month, the Century City French bistro is offering a three-course Evian healthy menu that consists of cold soup, Chilean sea bass, bababerries, not to mention a large bottle of Evian Natural Spring Water. No bubbles.

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Quick Bites: If you like to eat out but hate to pay for a sitter, consider DC3's new kid's night out deal. Dine at the Santa Monica airport restaurant Tuesday through Thursday evenings, and children eat their dinner at a separate table with other kiddies. After they finish eating, a licensed baby-sitter takes the tykes on a tour of the Museum of Flying next door. The tab? The price of an adult dinner; kids eat free. The hitch? Reservations are required. . . . Trey Foshee, who was chef at Rockenwager and then did a stint at Abiquiu, both in Santa Monica, is now cooking California food at Scarlatti in downtown's Sheraton Grande. . . . After four years, West Beach in Venice has reopened for lunch to coincide with the long-awaited opening of the three-story L.A. Louver gallery across the street.

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For more restaurant coverage see Sunday's Los Angeles Times Magazine and Thursday's Food Section.

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