Yesterday the LA Weekly featured a story on the 90’s Los Angeles hot spot The Monkey Room where Gordon Naccarato was Executive Chef.
Gordon says ” Gordon says “was a crazy time! Every night insanity”
The food wasn’t shoddy either, boasting a fusion menu from the “global table” that Reichl mused was the “90s on a plate.” Head Chef Gordon Naccarato had cut his teeth at Michael’s in Santa Monica, before opening the celebrity mecca Gordon’s in Aspen with Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner. “Naccarato cooks as someone who loves ethnic food,” food writer Laurie Ochoa wrote. “If we’re lucky, this is the direction high-end ethnic cooking is going- food inspired not by cookbooks, but by direct experience.” She particularly liked Monkey Bar’s Puerto Nuevo-style lobster tacos, while Jonathan Gold loved the chili noodles.
Monkey Bar’s food even had the approval of Julia Phillips, producing powerhouse and author of the scandalous 1991 Hollywood expose “You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again.” “The roast chicken stuffed with mushrooms and dressing and garlic mashed potatoes from Monkey Bar” was her favorite meal in L.A., she told the Los Angeles Times. “That place is such an absolute scene right now, if someone had it sent to my home I’d be happy. And except for the mashed potatoes it is really low-cal.”
What Monkey Bar really served up was sleazy-chic star-power. It was particularly popular with beefy male hotties from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s on the prowl. Nicholson was, of course, a constant presence. Don Henley, Mickey Rourke and Kiefer Sutherland were all regulars. Shannon Doherty made it one of her party stops, while more refined stars like Glenn Close and Nick Nolte dined with James Brooks in a secluded booth. There were many industry soirees: at a Grammy party for the Atlantic Group, Nicholson partied with David Crosby, Mr. Big (no, not that Mr. Big) and First Brother Roger Clinton. When Nicholson received the Life Achievement Award from AFI, he unsurprisingly held the after-party at Monkey Bar.
From its opening, Monkey Bar was also the favorite hang-out of Heidi Fleiss, ‘90s “madam-to-the-stars” and current macaw breeder.
Read More about the wild times at The Monkey Bar here
When I made my plans to head south to Mexico, I included a one-day stopover in Los Angeles to see my daughter & her husband Mike, and to see my friend Nancy Silverton’s hot new restaurant Osteria Mozza in Hollywood [ did I mention she is partners in the restaurant with uber-chef Mario Batali—it is his first restaurant in Los Angeles], and Joe Bastianich.
Nancy is one of America’s best Pastry Chefs, and kick-started the artisan bread movement in this country when she opened with then-husband famous Chef Mark Peel their restaurant Campanile, and the legendary La Brea Bakery. She has authored numerous cookbooks on pastries and breads.
Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton and I all worked together at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica in 1979. Nancy was our first cashier, not yet working in pastries; Mark was the nighttime sous-chef; and I was a waiter begging to get into the kitchen to apprentice. [And Mark was married to another woman, not Nancy].
Nancy soon began working with Jimmy Brinkley, Michael’s pastry chef, as his assistant. She got Michael to send her to France to study at the famous school for pastries Lenôtre.…and when she came back, she became our pastry chef, Mark left to work at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to learn pizza making Alice Waters style—[and then became Wolfgang Puck’s first chef at the original Spago]—and Nancy became Spago’s first pastry chef. Mark got a divorce and he and Nancy married.
When Mark left Michael’s, I had moved from nighttime line cook to being Lunch Chef, I got the opportunity to become the nighttime sous chef, under head chef Jonathan Waxman.
I had heard that it was 6 weeks in advance to get a reservation at Osteria Mozza, and since I was leaving in less than 2 weeks I wondered if Nancy would be able to accommodate a party of 8 of us on such short notice. When I called she was eating a “tuna sandwich” she told me, and laughed out loud when I asked if I could bring a party of 8 to dinner on a Saturday night.
…..She told me “we only take parties up to 7 people.”
Knowing her achilles heal is handsome men, I decided to let drop that good friend, Lucky Vanous [he of the famous Diet Coke commercial—where women elbow each other out of the way to see the hot construction worker take off his shirt before quaffing a Diet Coke] would also be coming to dinner with us.
Anyway, when Nancy heard Lucky was coming she relented and walked right over to the maître d’ and handed him her cell phone and told him to give us a table at whatever time I wanted. Later I found out that the party of 7 rule is because that is all that can comfortably fit around their largest table.
Our other dinner guests besides Lucky were to be my daughter Mariel, her husband Michael Schneider, Warren Coulter, Mary Beth Schulte, and David Snyder.
The place was jammed to the rafters—a classic room that reminded me of New York, with contemporary touches, dark woodwork, grey blue teal walls, handsome bar with high-top marble stands for standing, and next to that
As we elbowed our way to the bar, the noise was exuberant/deafening… [ the only thing worse than a noisy restaurant—is a quiet one]. This place is a smash success.
Warren Coulter was already waiting in the bar sipping a drink. As we waited for the rest of our party to arrive we ordered some cocktails and red wine by the glass from the all Italian list [some 35 pages long]. Thank God they are extremely well-versed in wine and were able to get us some delicious choices…including the Magnum of Aragon ’04 [$145]we ordered with dinner.
Warren used to manage restaurants in New York City for friend/chef Jonathan Waxman, and at one time worked as an assistant for Diane Sawyer at ABC. The he moved to Aspen to manage my restaurant Gordon’s where we became instant best friends. Warren has perfect taste in all things, and it is silly to disagree with him, as he is always right. And he is extremely funny! He moved to LA after my restaurant closed, and got back into the TV business where he worked for Big Ticket Television that makes Judge Judy, and Moesha to name a couple.
He now co-owns and manages a fabulous high-end furniture business called the Squires Company located in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, and is in 10 showrooms around the country including Wayne Martin Showroom in the design center in Seattle and Portland. They sell through interior designers.
David Snyder arrived from Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Jenny [daughter of famed movie director Norman Jewison]and their children. David worked as executive head of creative content for over 10 years for Walt Disney Television International for many years in London, and has created and produced hundreds of hours of animation, live-action programming and documentaries for Walt Disney Co. His programs have won numerous awards, including a handful of BAFTAs [British Academy of Film and Television Arts].
David now has his own production company Brandissimo Inc. that specializes in creating an emotional connection between brands and kids. They create and produce content to educate and entertain young audiences. His series include: Harry & His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs; Flockhearts; and Bigfoot presents Meteor & the Mighty monster Trucks was the top-rated series on Discover Kids, and was nominated for the 2007 Emmy Award.
6613 Hollywood BlvdHollywood, CA 90028
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Her restaurant Lucques [pronounced Luke] is named after the delicious French green olive. and was recently named the best restaurant in Los Angeles, by Los Angeles magazine.
On my way South to Mexico, I was stopping over in LA for a power-day of eating, and to see my daughter who lives in Brentwood with her husband Michael Schneider. I was invited to lunch by long-time dear friends from Aspen, Herb Hamsher, and his partner Jonathan Stoller. They wanted to meet my daughter’s husband Mike , and included their business partner’s and also longtime good friends of mine: actress Judith Light and her husband, actor/writer Robert Desiderio.
The smart Lunch Menu has been carefully edited, and is as well-pruned as those olive trees. There are only 5 Entrees from which to choose, and only 4 starters. Needless to say–the food was wonderful.
“The Point Foundation is incredibly inspiring to me. Providing not only financial support but the psychological, emotional, and spiritual support that goes along with mentoring is filling a very important need within the LGBT community. The fact that leadership potential is an element of the selection process means that we are thinking ahead to the future of the entire community as well as of these worthy and oppressed young men and women.”
Thanks for reading my blog, and for those of you who’ve noticed [and been pestering me to start writing again] let me explain that I have been traveling a bit—to Los Angeles for an amazing lunch at the best restaurant in LA. And also at Mario Batali’s and good friend Nancy Silverton’s (La Brea Bakery superstar chef) new restaurant Osteria Mozza—one of the hardest tickets to get in town– for a dazzling dinner in Hollywood, and with celebrities in tow…
I will be blogging and sharing photos about these meals, soon. I also continued south from LA and landed in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 11 days of beaching, exploring, shopping and eating some of the best street tacos I’ve ever had—all with camera in tow to let you in on some great street food I discovered.
Here at Pacific Grill, we have just changed the Dinner, Lunch and Bar Menus a bit to reflect our continued transition from Spring into Summer, and I will be sharing with you some of our new dishes: like our grilled lamb flank steak with amazing feta mashed potatoes, and a delicious light summery salad of grilled oregano chicken with a warm Greek bread salad.
While we were working on these menus we noticed how often that arugula [rocket, roquette, rugula, and rucola] has been showing up in our menus on salads and as a good garnish on some of our grilled meat entrees. This pungent lettuce looks beautiful, and has a hot-mustard taste rather like radish.
And now I just read an interesting article on how nutritious it is too! The article says: “Pack some onions and arugula betwixt your turkey burger and bun today. It’s a delicious way to help protect your pancreas”.
Apparently, an 8-year study found that people who consumed this leafy green had a 23% less chance of getting pancreatic cancer. Onions are another good source. So if you eat one of our Steak Salads at lunch and dinner, know you are putting some good cancer-fighters into your system, as well as enjoying a delicious meal.
If you’d like to read the complete article you can find it on Oprah’s Dr. Oz website here: