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Puck Formulating Future of Spago, Bistro Garden Site

TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

What he wants to do and what makes the most sense business-wise may not be the same thing, said Wolfgang Puck in a phone conversation from Hong Kong the day before he and his wife and partner, Barbara Lazaroff, set off on a 10-day luxury cruise in Asia. The chef was referring to the idea of moving Spago from its longtime location on Sunset Strip to the larger Bistro Garden space in Beverly Hills.

As soon as he and Lazaroff return from their vacation, he said, they plan to sit down and go over the numbers to see whether it makes more sense to pour money into renovating Spago or to move the 13-year-old restaurant to the fabled Beverly Hills site they acquired last week.

“Of the two of us,” Lazaroff said, “usually it’s Wolfgang who is more conservative. But this time, he was the one who said right away I really want to do this. And I was the one who was more cautious about it. We discussed the pros and cons for a number of weeks. And, in the end, it was a very large decision, a very emotional decision, like having a new baby.”

Enthused about the acquisition, Puck said, “The two places I love and that I’ve always felt are really California are the Bel-Air Hotel--which is a little out of my price range--and the Bistro Garden with that beautiful outdoor space.”

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Lazaroff, who has designed most of the couple’s restaurants, is already envisioning how she’d like to transform the patio and garden. Whether the Beverly Hills site will be Spago’s new home or something entirely different, Puck has captured one of Los Angeles’ great restaurant spaces.

Haute Fast Food: Joachim Splichal’s latest food concept debuted Wednesday night at the Grammys: It’s called Tacone, and it’s a flavored corn tortilla shaped into a cone and filled, reads the press release, “with ambrosial, multicultural taste and textural combinations.” You too can get a taste of this haute fast food, billed as a “food-on-the-run” experience, at the first Tacone Stand, which opens next Thursday in the Century City Shopping Center Marketplace. Consider this example: Reggae Pilgrim Tacone, in which bite-sized pieces of turkey are layered with Caribbean mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry and pineapple salsa and mashed sweet potatoes. On second thought, it is a little difficult to visualize. Guess you will just have to get in line and try it.

Small Bites: Mum’s in Long Beach celebrates its eighth anniversary with a new menu, which includes wok dishes and some wacky new pizzas. . . . Rebecca’s in Venice, celebrating its 10th birthday, has a new menu with lighter Mexican cooking. . . . Rosti, the popular Tuscan-style rosticceria and take-out with four locations (Brentwood, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Encino) has just introduced Per I Bambini, a special kids’ menu with child-sized portions of pollo al mattone (chicken cooked under a brick) and a selection of pizzas and pasta at an average price of $3.95, including a fountain soft drink. . . . The new Banana Cafe at the Century Club in Century City has instituted a tropical happy hour Thursdays and Fridays with complimentary hors d’oeuvres to accompany the cafe’s fanciful tropical drinks. It has entertainment, too, namely the lounge act of Thomas Cook, described as making Liberace seem tame in comparison.


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