NOODLING IT OUT: New father and old-line restaurateur Alex Thao (so young, so savvy) doesn’t let the lemongrass grow under his feet. The Rama proprietor ardently hopes to move Celadon, the Hillcrest cornerstone of his mini-empire, into more spacious quarters a few blocks east on University Avenue. After the move, the old location will become a high-style noodle shop, which could be the restaurant concept of the year. Thao frets about competition from new “Asian fusion” establishments opening nearby, but need he worry? Nah . . . Rakesh “Rick” Popat, another gifted entrepreneur who parlayed Hillcrest beginnings (Bombay) into a major Gaslamp presence with Monsoon (and less winningly, the adjacent Blue Ginger and its Chinese cuisine), bought Octopus Garden on Fifth near K to open a third Indian venture, Masala. The name refers to mixed spices, and Popat consistently spices his restaurants with enormous visual appeal . . . At Rice, the noodles take the form of Forbidden Rice Crêpes, a vegetarian specialty offered on the dinner menu of the W Hotel’s hip dining room. What’s “forbidden rice”? Chef A.J. Voytko says the purple grain is a Chinese specialty, and the name hints that it once was reserved for hoity-toities (and hotsy-totsies?). Served with grilled curried tofu and a spiced vegetable ragout, it competes well with steak.
THE YAPPIEST HOUR: The Wine Lounge at Fifty-Seven Degrees in downtown’s East Village has come up with a new one: a Tuesday “Yappy Hour” that invites singles to bring their pets from 4 to 7 p.m. Described as “a great way to break the ice and meet someone new,” the weekly salon du chien will pour a featured wine for $5.
EVERYBODY READS IT: After Dish teased that the name The Flaming Skewer could break the laughometer, the Hillcrest eatery on Fifth near University made a pre-opening switch to Rannoosh. Harder to spell, perhaps, but easy to pronounce—and if the kitchen swings, it may become synonymous with fine Lebanese–Middle Eastern cuisine.
“CHAIN, CHAIN, CHAIN” is the refrain you may catch Jesse Paul singing these days. Chaine des Rotisseurs recently inducted the Star of the Sea chef into the San Diego baillage (think “lodge,” but considerably classier than the Loyal Order of Raccoons) of the prestigious international foodie society . . . Eric Rimmele supervised haute cuisine dinners for Chaine des Rotisseurs during his seven years as food and beverage director at the Westgate, but the offer of the general manager’s spot enticed him to ditch the swanky beauty for the hot young allure of Tower 23. To match the style of the Pacific Beach boutique hotel, hipster Rimmele grew a goatee and ’stache. Owner Brett Miller is cited as changing management because he “built a Ferrari but needs to drive it like a Bentley.” Nicely said!
QUEL FROMAGE: At the Prince of Wales farewell dinner, Hotel Del executive chef Greg Ische said, “Can’t wait to take a sledgehammer to the bar tomorrow! I want some nice pieces to use for cheese plates.” Oh, that beautiful bar! (And wonderful service, and elegance. The world turns, doesn’t it?) The carefully crafted coastal Baja dinner foreshadowed the culinary bent the new, as-yet-unnamed room will take; so did fine wines from L.A. Cetto in the Guadalupe Valley above Ensenada.
MORE CHEESE: A lunch special at India Street’s attractive Sogno di Vino panini bar offers a ménage à trois of strawberries, Brie and salad, highlighting our town’s ever-evolving culinary sophistication . . . Half-price wine nights? You bet! They’re a draw Tuesdays at Osteria Romantica in La Jolla Shores and Wednesdays at Churrasco’s, a good Argentine steakhouse in Old Town . . . When the hotel that houses North Park’s amiable Red Fox Room expands into luxury condos, will the Jimmy Choos crowd out the Adidas?