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Michel Richard exits Social Hollywood; Alain Giraud to take reins

 Citrus

Michel Richard has left the building. The French chef who last year returned his landmark restaurant Citrus to Los Angeles in a new incarnation -- Citrus at Social Hollywood -- has stepped down. Alain Giraud, chef-partner at Anisette Brasserie in Santa Monica and Richard's protege at the original Citrus on Melrose Avenue in the '90s, is expected to take over the restaurant, which will be operating under a new, still-to-be-determined name.

Richard says: "I want to spend more time on the East Coast," where he has been running his flagship restaurant Citronelle in Washington, D.C., while visiting Social Hollywood on a semi-regular basis. "I have loved being back in Los Angeles with Citrus, but now I am very confident with Alain and feel that I can let go and refocus myself here in Washington."

Richard was recruited by restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow to relaunch the restaurant, located at the former Hollywood Athletic Club, and Citrus at Social Hollywood opened in January 2008. But the restaurant never seemed to gain its footing, despite receiving three stars from Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila. That rave notwithstanding, Richard's whimsical hits -- carpaccio of "surf, turf and earth" and "scallop scramble not 'eggsactly' " -- didn't draw the expected crowds.

Citrus at Social Hollywood chef de cuisine Remi Lauvand departed in August 2008. His replacement, Omri Aflalo, left earlier this year. The restaurant currently is open only three days a week, Thursday to Saturday.

Chodorow says he is "not contemplating significant changes in decor, but a new menu is being worked on" and there will be a new name. He says he anticipates expanding days and hours of operation.

"A few months ago Michel called me and they asked me to do the food concept," Giraud says. 
"Why not? It’s beautiful. But the location and the economy is a challenge. I see something simple, more casual. But the building is so beautiful so people have expectations."

Giraud continues in his role as chef-director of Anisette. 

"Social Hollywood is a great space, and it is a gorgeous restaurant," Richard says. "The location is still emerging, and it will take a little more time. I do love L.A. Right now I want to focus here in Washington. I have to stay here for the President to visit me again."

-- Betty Hallock

6525 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 337-9797.

Photo: David Sprague / For The Times.

 
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