IT’S ALL FOWL: When he worked at Tapenade, Philippe Verpiand quite understandably won an award for the exceptional foie gras au torchon (duck liver baked in a kitchen towel) he now serves at his new and lovable Cavaillon in Santaluz. Paired with an egg-shaped mound of dried apricot mousse and buttery brioche toast, it approaches edible Nirvana . . . Talk about duck dives—the long-prophesied Life restaurant will not be the life of the party in festive Hillcrest. For months, workers toiled on the ground floor of a building on Sixth near Robinson, for which the landlord seeks a new tenant . . . (A) talking turkey: Asked if a restaurant that recently changed hands had formerly been an Asian eatery, a server replied, “No, it was Korean” . . . Just chicken, I guess. Whenever people ask me, “Why have you never opened a restaurant?” they get three words: plumbing and employees.
HEY, BARTENDER, give me 1.6 shots of Han, the 48-proof Asian “vodka” that allows eateries restricted to beer-and-wine sales to serve lower-octane versions of Bloody Marys and, most misguidedly, Margaritas. At 24 percent alcohol, grain-based Han satisfies Alcoholic Beverage Control board guidelines for such establishments, although obviously, drinking enough of it will get you buzzed as tightly as a haircut at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot . . . No strangers to the sport of elbow-bending, the Aussies are coming to town. Named for a famous beach near Sydney, Bondi will open sometime this summer next to Hilo Hattie’s in the Gaslamp Quarter, convenient for guests who simply must wear Hawaiian shirts to Australian restaurants. A group of Oz investors will import a compatriot chef to bring the (newly) good cooking of Down Under up here . . . On E Street, the retro-Russkie Red Circle has reopened as Red Circle Café, and it serves drinks, too . . . If you never noticed the late Steakhouse 66 in Encinitas, you didn’t miss much. The replacement is Firefly Grill & Wine Bar, with Thomas DiMello in charge of a multicultural menu, and 30 “boutique” wines by the glass on offer in the lounge.
AFTER 52 MILLION BUCKS in renovations, the U.S. Grant should reopen in November, and operator Starwood Hotels says the once-stately Grant Grill will sport “a newly reconcepted contemporary design and flair,” whatever that means, and will be a “market fresh Californian grill with native influences”—whatever that means. Uh, can’t wait to find out. Will there be turtle soup? Sounds doubtful. The decades-old secret recipe includes ketchup, a rare case of the “red menace” having an ambrosial effect.
CONVERTED BUT NOT CONVINCED, Bud Deslatte laments that condo conversions in Little Italy—including the Kettner Boulevard edifice that houses Bud’s Louisiana Food Shoppe—have emptied renters from a couple of buildings, while slow sales have failed to replenish them with residents. The lessened demand for jambalaya doesn’t worry the New Orleans–bred restaurateur, who has weathered worse storms.
TWO ATTORNEYS who ordered the flaming cheese appetizer saganaki at a local Greek restaurant testify that the waitress poured a glass of ouzo over the cheese, torched it with her lighter and then frantically attempted to blow out the flames.
BRIAN O’CONNOR, formerly of Madison Park in Seattle, now wears the chef ’s toque at Laurel. His predecessor, Fabrice Poigin, consults for the hot new Paradise Grille in Flower Hill Mall, where some guests brave the heat of battle to dine at the marble counter alongside the open kitchen . . . Chef Christian Graves left Farallon in San Francisco to replace Deb Schneider at JSix.