Blo Hard

The Velvet Room gets a fishy facelift

The owners of The Velvet Room let me know they took issue with a cutline I wrote for a photo accompanying the review of their restaurant when it opened in the spring of 2000. The offensive comment?

"At The Velvet Room, the music's great; it's the food that blows."

The Velvet Room, see, was a supper club with so-so food and amazing live jazz music. And the focus of our photo was a musician putting all he had into his trumpet. Well, I thought it was clever.

The Velvet Room subsequently shook up its kitchen, and I heard the food had improved. Now, though, there's a new concept underway and, sorry guys, but I've got to say it: Things blow again. But in an entirely different way.

Velvet Room is closed, with plans to emerge later this month under the catchy name Blophish. Sushi replaces the former contemporary American menu, and rock 'n' roll steps in for the R&B.

I wonder if the owners of Kyoto and RA are worried. The two sushi bars — within walking distance of the new Blo hole — rely on the same see-and-be-seen crowds that crave high style with their sashimi.

Though there's a giant banner announcing the change on the building, management would say only that the details of the new concept are "a surprise."

Stay tuna-d, er, tuned.

Orange You Excited? I fondly remember Graham's Fruit Stand, a lovely fresh produce place on Camelback near 36th Street. It had the most amazing orange smoothies, made fresh to order with fruit plucked from the orange grove behind the shop. It was bulldozed about 10 years ago to make way for yet another housing development.

Now, there's a sense of neighborhood — and noshing — returning to the area, with the introduction of La Grande Orange, a chic grocery and fresh-food marketplace rivaling the gourmet gathering spots that my brother in Berkeley always brags about.

La Grande Orange — coming soon to 40th Street and Campbell — is from the owners of Postino, that comfy-hip wine bar-bistro on the same corner. It joins one of my favorite restaurants, the sophisticated-casual Nonni's Kitchen Italian, and the cool coffee café Java Garden, both next door.

Orange has an encompassing approach, relying on a collection of local vendors to keep its shelves full. I know I'll be there, stocking up on hand-crafted pastries, artisan cheeses and breads, boutique wines, gourmet pizzas, fresh flowers and, if I'm lucky, a made-just-for-me fruit smoothie.

 
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