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December 13-19, 2006

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Goodbye, Emile

By Stett Holbrook

AFTER 33 years, Emile Mooser has finally decided to sell his namesake downtown restaurant. "I'm 73 years old," he said. "I don't want to die behind the stove." Emile's, an institution of Swiss-French dining in downtown San Jose, will get new life under the ownership of Alexandra Dorian. She and her real estate developer husband bought both the South Second Street building and the land it sits on.

The menu will not change immediately, but it's expected it will evolve over time. Dorian plans to open for lunch and will be open every day early next year, including holidays. And don't be surprised to see a name change in 2007.

In addition to selling Emile's, Mooser also cashed in on his restaurant's website— A Swedish company had been after him for years to sell the domain because they wanted to use it for their frequent flyer rewards program. In the language of the web, also spells

Mooser will remain with the restaurant for a three-week transition period, and will continue to offer his popular cooking classes and team-building program. During the past 15 years, the team-building program has become popular with some Silicon Valley companies, including eBay, Google, Cisco, HP, Silicon Graphics and Apple.

For more than three decades, Mooser has become as well-known for his philanthropy as for his cooking, raising an estimated $3 million for South Bay charities groups by offering auctioned dinners prepared by him at a residence or the restaurant. Mooser said the highest bid for such a dinner was $60,000 in 2000.

PLUMED HORSE GETS A NEW CHEF: Across the valley, another old-line restaurant is about to get an infusion of new blood. Following the recent sale of Saratoga's 55-year-old Plumed Horse, the restaurant announced plans to hire Aqua chef Peter Armellino to run the kitchen.

With the restaurant's new owners Josh Weeks, Aki Fujimura and Gary Price, Armellino is expected to inject some needed life into Saratoga's sleepy restaurant scene with a seafood-heavy menu of California-inspired French cuisine.

The Plumed Horse will close early next year for 90 days for a reported $8 million renovation.

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH ASQEW: In other restaurant news, the South First Street space in the Twohy building vacated by the ill-fated Zyng will soon be transformed into Asqew Grill, a San Francisco-based chain of fast casual restaurants that feature skewered meats and fish and well as barbecued ribs and chicken.

The restaurant signed a two-year lease for the space. San Jose's Redevelopment Agency is working with the restaurant on a grant to help with new signage for the business.

While I have my doubts about another chain restaurant downtown, let's hope they have better luck than the Zyng, a mix-and-match Asian noodle restaurant that never caught on in the downtown neighborhood.

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