MIDNIGHT SUPPERS do not characterize San Diego, but downtown, there seems to be growing interest in afterhours gastronomy. The redoubtable Rainwater’s on Kettner for years has valiantly maintained a policy of seating until 11 p.m. weeknights, midnight on weekends, but in the Gaslamp Quarter, post–last call munchies meet their match at Brian’s Eatery & Drinkery at 828 Sixth Avenue, which actually serves around the clock Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Cool—as is a mountainous plate of eggs Benedict at 3 a.m. . . . Rice, the dining room at bar-cum-hotel W, recently hired A.J. Voytko as chef and installed a Friday-Saturday menu that commences at 11 p.m. and lists creative, bizarrely named specialties (Brie and tapenade dress the “Garbage Burger”) . . . In the adjacent Magnet, the new “Recovery” Bloody Mary Bar is open 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday as an acid jazz–fueled “interactive party” at which guests buy 2-ounce vodka shots and build eyeopeners from assorted hot sauces, mixers and garnishes.
SEX AND THE CITY OF LIGHT (read it and bleep!): In central Paris at 1 rue du Mail, Chez Georges draws French media types and savvy Yanks with solid bistro fare, and I gladly dined one sultry night in June. The salade frisée of curly lettuce, poached egg and warm bacon dressing arrived as Georges himself, clad as ever in chef’s garb, seated a nice-looking American couple next to me. Side-by-side tables make for overheard conversations, and my neighbors mistakenly assumed that my French chatter with the server denied fluency in English. An involuntary eavesdropper (really!), my ears perked when the guy said, “I think it’s time we become snobby art buyers.” Snotty described his tone of voice, which he might have lowered before saying, “We can’t travel to Ireland, I take my wife there.” Oh! Mention of his role as chef-restaurateur cemented my attention, and when he outlined his pre-kitchen career, I realized I had written about him long ago. He bragged, “I’m a rich kid, straight off the Mayflower,” just as Georges grimly returned with his no-good credit card. So she paid the bill—as Georges asked about my dinner in English. Uh-oh! The guy stared at me, blanched, blurted, “Are you the food writer? You better not be!” and ran from the room. Sorry, no names.
IN OTHER GOSSIP, Julien Hug has taken over dad Bertrand’s spot as manager and host of Mille Fleurs, on the Rancho Santa Fe landmark’s 20th anniversary . . . Gordon Hattersley, who restored the Scripps-Britt House in Bankers Hill as a luxury bed-and-breakfast, has bought the adjacent Mandarin House for “future development,” but for now, the kung pao continues . . . Chef/proprietor Carlton Greenaway has built a new “chef’s table” in the kitchen at Escondido’s 150 Grand Café. Deemed “interactive,” the by-reservation-only Chef’s Tasting Menu costs $65 . . . Hash House A Go Go reportedly will open a branch in Las Vegas . . . Eel Parmigiana? Get it at Mission Hills Bistro on West Washington Street . . . The brilliant “fruit sushi” at Just Fabulous Kensington must be seen (and tasted) to be believed . . . Says Joe Busalacchi, whose new Crudo on India Street opens this month, “Cooking is all love. The simpler you make it, the better. Anybody who gives me a plate of pasta with al dente vegetables doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
Wreaths for Laurel
I HAD MY DOUBTS about the wisdom of paying a reported million bucks for Laurel, the once-celebrated Bankers Hill eatery that by 2004 seemed too pooped to pop. So I was wrong. Tracy Borkum, whose Kensington Grill and Chive have been solid hits, shelled out the cash and invested more in what she calls a “swinging London-Paris luxe décor.” Mod for the modern generation, it milks fun from details like banquettes upholstered in pinstriped suit fabric, deconstructed chandeliers that string rows of crystal prisms on metal hangers, and curvy mirrors that, a couple of martinis later, may appear to reflect Austin Powers. Chef de cuisine Amy DiBiase oversees a menu written by executive chef Fabrice Poigin, whom Borkum hired away from Bertrand at Mister A’s to supervise all her kitchens. The double-sided menu opposes the titles “Traditional Dining” and “Grazing,” an old idea that evidently is new again. Possibilities include a pricey-but-worth-it heirloom-tomato salad with Fleur du Marquis cheese, fine oysters topped with ginger-cilantro-lime granite (a sorbet variation), crispy sweetbreads that melt on contact and an elaborately presented Moroccan-spiced rack of lamb. The scales howled the morning after the butterscotch pot de crème, but its memory lingers sweetly.