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Madame Wu Gets Ready to Close Her Garden

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Goodbye Garden: Madame Wu’s Garden, that block-long Wilshire Boulevard palace of Chinese food, will be closing its doors soon, after serving her own brand of Cantonese-Mandarin food to the famous for 37 years. “I’m exhausted,” says Madame Sylvia Wu. She opened the first incarnation of her restaurant at 2628 Wilshire Blvd. (where Drago is now) in 1959. A few years later, she moved down the block to 2201 Wilshire. “We were very busy the first 20 years,” she says. The next 10 years weren’t as great, what with all the new restaurants opening up around her. And now she wants to travel, and spend more time with her children and grandchildren. Wu will keep her restaurant open at least until after the Chinese New Year (which falls on Jan. 28), maybe even until after Valentine’s Day. She’ll also throw her traditional weeklong Chinese New Year celebration, complete with dancing dragon every day. In spite of all the protest from her patrons, Wu can’t her change her mind about closing. She told us: “I’m an old lady now. I need the rest.”

* Madame Wu’s Garden, 2201 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 828-5656.

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Goodbye Gilles: Gilles Epie has moved on after only seven months at Chez Gilles in Beverly Hills. Reason? Owner Jean Denoyer envisioned Chez Gilles as a neighborhood bistro along the lines of his more casual La Goulue in New York, while Epie prefers more formal haute cuisine. Stepping into chef position is Epie’s former sous-chef, Didier Labbe, who worked with Epie for three years, here and at L’Orangerie. Labbe tells us the food will be the same for now (including the New Year’s menu). “It’s my food, too,” he says, “because we worked together to create the menu.” General Manager Albert Charbonneau, who worked with Labbe and Epie at L’Orangerie, has followed Epie out the door, replaced by Karen Saccone, whose credits include Spago and Neiman Marcus’ restaurant operations. The name of the restaurant is going to change now, and so will the food, but nothing has been hammered out yet.

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Goodbye Diet: Gastronomique Week at L’Orangerie falls Feb. 17-21, so you might want to put off that New Year’s diet. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, L’Orangerie is hosting two-star chef Pierre Gagnaire from Paris. Gagnaire had three Michelin stars in his first restaurant and his current one was honored with two stars shortly after. Gagnaire, who is known for technically perfect, endlessly inventive cooking, will close his own restaurant for a week so that he and two of his sous-chefs can come to L’Orangerie to cook.

For the weeklong celebration, he will create a special menu, and a different winery will showcase its wines on each of the five nights he is here. All the food and wine will be a la carte; prices will be decided once the menu is set. Participating wineries include Robert Mondavi, Shafer, Iron Horse, Duckhorn and Niebaum-Coppola (in that order). Call the restaurant for reservations, and make it quick. These dinners tend to sell out right away. For more information, check out L’Orangerie’s new Web site, https://www.orangerie.com.

* L’Orangerie, 903 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; (310) 652-9770.

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New for New Year’s: A couple of new places are opening up just in time to celebrate New Year’s. In West Hollywood, Victor Hodd’s (brainchild of chefs Daly and Liz Thompson) will have several New Year’s dinners: a three-course at 6:30 p.m. ($50 a head) or a four-course dinner with glass of champagne at 9:30 ($75). Food is regional American, the decor is bohemian.

* Victor Hodd’s, 7953 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (213) 822-9652.

The Garden of Eden, the swank supper club on Hollywood Boulevard, is throwing a New Year’s Eve “blowout” (as they put it). Chefs Claudio Marchesan of Pane e Vino and Ken Barnoski of Hollywood Athletic Club have put together a four-course menu. For $120 you get dinner, a champagne toast and admission into the club side of the place. Seatings at 7, 8 and 9:30 p.m. Entertainment includes tarot readers, a mime and maybe even henna and tattoo artists. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

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* The Garden of Eden, 7080 Hollywood Blvd., (213) 465-3336.

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Just When You Thought We Couldn’t List Any More New Year’s Eve Dinners: For a European-style party, head to Rockenwagner, where (after a five-course dinner) you can munch on Alsatian Neu Jahr Brezels (raisin-filled pretzels) after dinner and try to stuff 12 grapes down your gullet in 12 seconds at midnight--a Spanish tradition, except that the seconds will be chimed off on a glockenspiel. If you can still eat after midnight, there’ll be Italian lentil soup for prosperity in the new year. The 5:30-7 p.m. seating is significantly priced $60.98 a head, the 7:30-11 p.m. seating $85.98. Rockenwagner, 2435 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-6504.

For a Roaring ‘20s party, complete with complimentary bathtub gin, check out the Cadillac Cafe. The a la carte menu is recipes from cookbooks published in the 1920s. In the space adjoining the restaurant (usually an art gallery), you’ll find a DJ; prizes will be awarded for the best ‘20s costume, and Charleston dancing. No cover. The Cadillac Cafe, 359 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; (310) 657-6591.

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