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Ken Frank: From La Toque to House of Blues to Fenix

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TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

A year and a half ago, Ken Frank closed the doors of La Toque, his 14-year-old French restaurant on Sunset Strip, for the last time. The shaggy-haired chef turned up next just across the street at the House of Blues, cooking for the exclusive, members-only restaurant upstairs--which left the rest of us unhappily out in the cold.

Frank made his exit from that kitchen to open a new restaurant last week, also on Sunset. It’s a mere stroll away, in the flamboyant Art Deco landmark, newly renamed the Argyle, i.e., the old St. James Club. And this is very good news for the many fans of Frank’s classic French cuisine.

A comeback kid, the 39-year-old Frank, who has been cooking professionally since he was a teen-ager, has named this latest restaurant Fenix after the mythical bird. The Art Deco dining room overlooking the hotel’s pool and the galaxy of city lights below is a glamorous setting for Frank’s cooking.

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Fenix’s menu offers his famous rosti potatoes topped with American sturgeon caviar, along with lighter fare like a salad of lobster and crispy salmon skin tossed with peppery daikon shoots. A consummate saucier, Frank shows off his sauce-making skills with grilled salmon in a caviar-studded reduction and Delmonico steak napped in Jack Daniels pepper sauce, a heap of skinny perfect frites set alongside.

It will be interesting to see in the coming months if this hard-working young veteran, who has shown such great promise through the years, will take the opportunity to spread his wings and soar.

* Fenix, the Argyle, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (213) 654-7100. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Saturday for dinner. Major credit cards accepted. Appetizers $5.50-$18; entrees $17-$29.

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