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Diablo Dish — July '08


Roland Passot, the French chef behind Left Bank Brasserie in Pleasant Hill, will once again be shaking up the Contra Costa dining scene.

Passot made a splash when he opened Left Bank in 2000. Now, he and his business partner, Ed Levine, say they plan to move the restaurant to Mercer, a new condominium and retail complex in downtown Walnut Creek. They expect to open in spring 2009. Until then, you can still get your steak frites fix in Pleasant Hill.

The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards has found a chef to fill the boots of Jerry Regester, who left in January. Arthur Wall, who came on board in May, has cooked at San Diego’s George’s at the Cove and San Francisco’s Farallon. “Arthur is a dynamic, innovative chef who will bring his own flair to our restaurant’s wine country cuisine,” says vice president of marketing Christine Wente.

Danville’s Marcello’s changed hands recently. New owner Jochen Wenzel, a former Marcello’s regular, bought the restaurant when longtime owner Germano Foschi retired. The menu, atmosphere, staff, and piano bar will remain the same, but you’ll see the occasional special from Wenzel’s native Germany.

Walnut Creek’s Havana is muddling more mojitos. The Cuban restaurant recently expanded its dining room and launched its catering service. The new dining area can also be reserved for private parties, says owner Zachary Scott.

Cinco de Mayo was no fiesta at El Balazo restaurants this year— on May 2 immigration officials arrested 63 El Balazo workers. The local taqueria chain got caught in the searchlights in March, too, when in a separate matter the IRS executed search warrants. Owner Marino Sandoval did not return calls seeking comment.

We hate to break it to food lovers: Plearn Thai Cuisine’s flagship restaurant in Berkeley has shut (but the Walnut Creek location remains open). Also, Pleasant Hill’s La Pollada Cafe, one of the East Bay’s few Peruvian restaurants, closed.

The Tri-Valley is reveling in Southeast Asian cuisine. San Ramon’s Pho Saigon, which opened last year, is doing a brisk business. Another Pho Saigon (same name, different owners) is about to open in Dublin. Yet another pho house, Pho Monsoon Vietnamese Cuisine, this one with a full menu of the country’s dishes, was to open in the San Ramon Marketplace in June. A Filipino restaurant, Papaya Grill, is scheduled for a July opening, also at the Marketplace.

Pearl Oyster Bar & Restaurant,
a Diablo Food Award winner in 2005, is reinventing itself. Chef Mark Lusardi left the Rockridge eatery in 2006. Since then, two chefs have departed, including Jonathan Luce, who is now cooking at Bellanico in Oakland’s Glenview. Pearl was set to reopen June 10 as Water Lounge. “It no longer has a focus on dinner hour,” says general manager Micaela Gardner. A light remodel is under way to emphasize the lounge atmosphere.
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