On the way back to the kitchen the other night I heard someone say that Ed “Jean Luc” Kleefield’s restaurant mini-empire was crumbling (which made me laugh to myself since I immediately pictured Jean Luc in a toga with a fiddle—he even kinda looks like Nero).
The party in question, a local barmaid, supported this thesis with anecdotal evidence of the prolonged darkness of borderline dud steakhouse Prime 103, the complete failure of the overly kitschy pseudo-theme restaurant Mumbo Gumbo and the departure of Keith Greene—aka K-Grease, to no one but himself—from JLX Bistro when his celebrity chef boat sank (I think I saw him behind the line at Schmidt’s recently).
But, no, rumors of Jean Luc’s fall from greatness (or at least everywhere-ness) are greatly exaggerated—so says the East End’s most prolific self-promoting ’aurateur himself. Yes, Mumbo Gumbo is gratefully gone, at the insistence of its landlord, criminal defender of the fallen stars, Eddie Burke Jr., Jean Luc told a Press staffer recently. So, to fill the void, Jean Luc is taking a cue from the utter impossibility of even moving in the hyper-crowded bar of his garish Asian-something restaurant in Southampton, Madame Tong’s, on weekends and looking to tap the giant profits of the booze biz at his other spots.
First, Madame Tong’s is going to be stepping up its high-end bar crowd offerings, using the big dining room for bottle service this summer, and the Mumbo Gumbo spot (it used to be Phao and then Jeff and Eddy’s, in case you’re like most people and never went to Mumbo Gumbo) will morph into a “wine bar and Italian café,” says Mr. Luc, which will apparently be offering fare as varied as panninis and whole fish but will clearly be geared toward the lucrative late night crowd.
And that’s not all Jean Luc has up his sleeve. He is also hoping to tap the need for a new trendy see-and-be-seen nightclub spot in East Hampton now that Star Room is no more, and will be using the spacious side room and outdoor patio of Prime 103 as a clubby gathering spot. My sources tell me it will be called Honey Bar and will have its own entrance, making use of the building’s dual driveways. You gotta hand it to Jean Luc: he’s always thinking.
So it sounds like Jean Luc will get to keep his seat at the owners’ table with the other multi-restaurant princes like Ben Krupinski, Mark Smith and David Lowenberg. And the gang is going to need another place setting as Kevin Boles has once again branched out in a big way from his Bostwick’s headquarters in Springs and has apparently been dropping a bunch of money (his own and some other people’s, I presume) all over town.
With his newest creation, Indian Wells Tavern in the old Estia/McKendry’s space, already an honest to goodness hot spot thanks to a comfortable bar and the same fajitas that made Santa Fe popular, Mr. Boles is now turning his attention to his other acquisition this past winter, the Snowflake. There appears to still be a bit of work to do but the Snowflake will ride again this summer, as a family friendly seafood and burgers kind of spot. The once-beloved Snowflake has had its problems with unskilled owners the last decade or so, but Mr. Boles has rarely made a misstep.
With her place on School Street in Bridgehampton working its normal lukewarm groove, Alison Becker Hurt has turned her fidgety attention to East Hampton, taking over the restaurant spot in the recently reborn Maidstone Arms. Now that condos are not the future for the Arms, maybe Alison and chef Robert Gurwitz can bring back the crowds to the wonderful dining and lounge areas. I plan to be one of the first to test the martini shakers.
The sale of the James Lane Café has reportedly fallen through and word is the asking price has dropped a bit, from $6.5 million to $4 million. Presumably the restaurant space is still up for grabs for this summer, but I don’t know if there is any possibility it may be leased out if no sale deal is on the table.
Speaking of big sells, East Hampton Point still hasn’t found a new Daddy Warbucks to adopt its sprawling property from Benny Krupinski and will be open for at least one more summer of sunsets and Sunday nights. Longtime chef-pastry chef couple Matt and Jenny Ross have left (he for the South Fork Country Club, she for the pastry table at the new Alison, and neither with any blessing from Mr. Krupinski) and EHP has brought in a young hotshot from Nobu Miami.
Rumored to have a checkered past, financier and fancy pants restaurant and nightclub guy Jeffrey Chodorow is in negotiations to open a version of his hot spot Kobe Club restaurant in Manhattan. The rumor is he’s been talking to Frank Cilione, owner of Le Flirt nightclub, and possibly has his eye on the Pacific East building, which is still the subject of a heated legal battle between its former owners.
Anyone who has noticed the sudden spurt of life at the old George Martin’s building may be excited by the prospect of F.O.O.D. finally taking over the spot after nearly three years of rumors. I was told last winter that the F.O.O.D partnership has split up so I’m not sure what is going in there but the health department approvals are finally in the pipeline and there is fresh spit and polish on the wood so it looks like we’re going to get something in that space.
The grapevine is also murmuring that Savanna’s in Southampton is for sale too. Once upon a time would-be hotel hotshot David Waxman might have had his eye on the spot to go with his lease on the Polish Hall next door. But Mr. Waxman’s days in the Hamptons seem to be numbered. He’s been booted from the Polish Hall, for not paying the rent, and his three hotels around town are on the market for something in the neighborhood of $10 to $25 million. That’s a pretty respectable neighborhood, as Jack Walsh would say.
There’s lots of new blood west of the canal this year as well. Hampton Bays has a couple new Latin slanted spots: the Spanish-themed Momentos Bar and Grille and Blue Cactus, a Mexican-type place owned by the same folks who brought the great Agave café to Sag Harbor two years ago, that has moved into the tiny former F.O.O.D. spot.
Lastly, I hear that the owners of annoyingly trendy Pink Elephant nightclub have taken over the Tavern a couple miles to the west. Why anyone would want to own one building that attracts the crowd that lines up outside Pink Elephant is beyond me, much less two. Must make money or something.
They can have it. I’ll have the salmon.