Pop goes former Palate Food + Wine in Glendale

There have been pop-up Halloween stores and other temporary businesses in Glendale, but this one just might take the cake, or at least the chou rouge.

A pop-up restaurant is opening in the shell of the former Palate Food + Wine, the popular eatery that closed abruptly in March.

The pop-up, Le Comptoir, was slated to open this weekend and be open three nights a week — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — and operated by chef Gary Menes, who was named one of the “Best 2012 Chefs of the Year” by Los Angeles Magazine. He also has ties to the defunct Palate, where he was executive chef and partner for about two years.

The Le Comptoir — French for “the counter” — will offer seatings at 6 and 8 p.m. with a five-course dinner served at a 14-seat counter and two tables. Up to 18 customers will be served at each seating.

Menes will be preparing vegetable-inspired dishes behind the counter, where customers can watch as he shares tidbits about the dishes and their ingredients.

Cost is $55 per person with a corkage fee of $18, according to the Le Comptoir website.

Pop-up restaurants have been opening in various sites throughout the Los Angeles area during the past few years — most of them in locations that are kept secret, exclusive and for only a limited time, sometimes just a few weeks.

A temporary arrangement gives chefs an abundance of creative and administrative freedom, Menes said.

Opening a permanent restaurant can be expensive, involving a lease, attorney fees and business permits.

“You’re already into it for $40,000 and you haven’t bought equipment or product,” he said.

Menes worked at Patina restaurant for renowned chef Joachim Splichal for about four years in the 1990s, where he honed his culinary skills and learned how to run a business.

He then had stints at the Dining Room, the Ritz Carlton San Francisco, Melisse and the French Laundry.

He later helmed the kitchen at Firefly, where he received his first two-star rating from the Los Angeles Times.

After he left Palate, Menes was chef at Marche in Sherman Oaks until it closed in 2010.

Most recently, Menes operated Le Comptoir for about nine months at Tiara Café in downtown Los Angeles, leaving about 1 1/2 months ago, said Fred Eric, owner and chef at Tiara.

Menes said he knew it was time to move his restaurant to a new location.

“Nine months is not a pop-up,” he said, adding that he would like to open a permanent restaurant one day if the economic conditions are right and he can exercise his cooking creativity.

In the meantime, Menes said he’s continuing to develop his restaurant concept through various pop-up locations.

For more information, visit www.lecomptoirla.com.


Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam


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