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Silver Lining

This story first appeared in the December 18, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Sandwiched between Los Feliz and Silverlake, Sunset Junction is an eclectic hotbed of offerings for artists, actors and socialites.

At El Chavo, (4441 Sunset Boulevard, 323-664-0871. Open Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, Saturday to 11:30 p.m.) Dolly Parton looks over this cavernous enclave. A huge black-and-white poster of Parton sits proudly above the bar. Popular dishes include chicken in mole sauce ($10.25) and tongue in Spanish sauce with mole ($10.25). The 33-year-old establishment’s decor and food work together to create a lively atmosphere.

Equally popular is Café Stella (3932 Sunset Boulevard, 323-666-0265. Open Tuesday-Saturday 6 p.m. to 11p.m.), where Keanu Reeves and Christian Slater favor the charm of this local bistro. Daily specials include oysters and caviar, and regular favorites include beef Wellington ($38). All meals are lovingly prepared by chef Aldis Seaton, who has traveled the world from Persia to Germany picking up flavors to complement the impeccable decor.

If it’s entertainment you’re after, head to the Vista Theater (6712 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-660-6639. Open daily, first show 12:30 p.m., last show 9:45 p.m.). Built in 1922, the Vista was refurbished to withstand earthquakes in the Nineties. More than a decade later the Egyptian/Art Deco interior transports movie-goers to the venue’s old Hollywood days with added touches such as an adjoining café and Lindt chocolate truffles at the concession stand.

— Emma Jordan and Zoe Lampel

Mexico Meets Manhattan

Because Mexican food has not yet scaled to the culinary heights of, say, French or Italian cuisine, it’s easy to relegate its importance to simply tacos, burritos and enchiladas. But, thanks to Manhattan newcomer Dos Caminos, diners can take a virtual culinary tour to south and central Mexico and move beyond the aforementioned dishes with authentic yet contemporary epicurean delights such as chipotle beef taquitos, braised beef served in a crispy corn tortilla, Chilean sea bass with chayote gratin and jicama-pineapple salad and slow-roasted pork pibil with black beans. Of course, there’s a healthy selection of tacos, guacamole made tableside and even enchiladas.

Executive chef Dudley Nieto said the eatery’s fare is “classic, authentic Mexican with a modern touch. The menu has different ingredients that make it fun and flavorful. The authenticity of the basic Mexican ingredients like mole poblano are respected, but we enhance it with items that are more upscale.”

The 250-seat restaurant recalls the colors of a Mexican sunset. This aesthetic is the work of Yabu Pushelberg, a design firm with offices in Toronto and New York whose clients have included Bergdorf Goodman and Carolina Herrera. But make no mistake: The Latin music and bustling vibe is more like a hopping night out in Mexico City. Signature dishes include the guacamole ($12), chipotle beef taquitos ($8), red snapper and scallop ceviche ($10), roasted pork pibil ($18) and lobster tumbada ($24). The menu also boasts an impressive dessert list, crafted by pastry chef Brian Garcia. Selections include warm pistachio crepes with bananas, “Tres Leches” cake filled with almond mousse and Mexican chocolate torte made with Mexican chocolate mousse, all for $8. 373 Park Avenue South, New York; 212-294-1000.

— Kristin Larson

La Fab Nikita

Pass on the trip to Berlin. Instead, head to Nikita, a cocktail bar and cafe inspired by the dark, moody and sexy German cabarets of the Thirties. The über hip haunt opened its doors in October in Dallas’ West Village shopping center and quickly landed on the radar of the fickle and trendy Oak Lawn crowd.

“Caviar, vodka and freedom — that’s what we’re all about,’’ said Royce Ring, a partner in Dallas-based Triple R Group, which owns Nikita, along with its wildly popular sibling Tom Tom Noodle Club.

Nikita offers an incredible array of appetizers, most of which are $10 or less, including salmon tartar and a golden beet and goat cheese salad. Sandwiches include Austrian ham and cheese with lemon oil on ciabatta bread.

Other dishes include Caspian Sea caviar, Scottish smoked salmon with black bread and fire-and-ice shellfish towers, which include iron-seared mussels, raw oysters, chilled shrimp and poached scallops.

And what’s a cabaret without vodka? Nikita serves more than 50 types of vodka, as well as seemingly endless wine and champagne lists and liqueur-based coffees.

The caffeine will probably come in handy: Nikita is attracting an upscale, late-night crowd, which makes sense considering the bar’s location in the trendy, young and diverse Oak Lawn neighborhood, which is near downtown Dallas.

“Nikita is great for couples or first dates, whether guy meets girl or guy meets guy,” Ring said. “We’re located right in front of the Magnolia Theater and also expect to attract before and after movie-goers.”

They won’t have trouble finding the bar, thanks to a white neon sign that spells out “Nikita’’ in large Slavic-style characters. Inside, a dark and intimate 850-square-foot bar features sleek black hardwood and concrete floors, a black slate and cherry-wood bar and a thumping mix of techno dance mix. Also on the design front, there’s a steel and concrete stairwell that descends to a 4,000-square-foot subterranean cabaret that includes several small bars. Nikita is at 3699 McKinney Ave., West Village Shopping Center, Dallas; 214-520-6454.

— Rusty Williamson

Impressive Art

For the next few months, art aficionados won’t need to cross the pond to view the treasures on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Until March 16, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art will stage “Paris in the Age of Impressionism: Masterworks from the Musée d’Orsay.”

The exhibition — which captures the artistic energy of late 19th-century Paris — features about 115 masterpieces from all areas of the Musée d’Orsay’s vast collections, including paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, works on paper and photographs. Some of the creative minds whose works are displayed include Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rivière, Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Pieces are arranged into seven themes: Views of the Modern City, Parisian High Society, Grand Theaters, The Dark Side of the City of Light, The Eiffel Tower, New Directions and Art Nouveau.

Within the Dark Side theme, an oil-on-canvas masterpiece by Edgar Degas, entitled “Café Society” (1875-1876), depicts a working-class French couple intoxicated and showing fatigue in their faces from the daily grind. The painting created uproar among art critics at the 1876 Impressionist exhibition, who felt it contained inappropriate subjects.

Following its Atlanta run, the exhibition will travel to Houston, where it will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts from April 6 through June 29. 1280 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta; 404-733-4444, ParisinAtlanta.org.

— Toni M. Lublin

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