The people behind the successful Chen Chow Brasserie will be opening a second venture in Birmingham in the spring, a noveau Italian place to occupy the space once claimed by City Cellar--which in itself was a fabulous place before it suffered the fate of the Blue Martini downstairs and got shut down along with it (guilt by association; same owners).
If they take the same recipe which made Chen Chow a hit--simple yet elegant food in a posh atmosphere perfectly suited to Birmingham--this new venture in a cuisine style sorely lacking in that corner of the O.C. (save for Bacco in Southfield, which is a bit more than a stone's throw from B-ham) already has built-in success.
In related news, Zoran--the host with the most who, much like most other people steeped in the restaurant industry, has made the full circuit of area restaurants and most recently came from MGM and Zinc--is the maître d' of Chen Chow now. Likewise, Tribute's former bar manager Kevin has taken a position there and will be taking over the new Italian place once it opens.
Speaking of Tribute, much has changed in the few years since I was a regular. Executive Chef Don Yamauchi has left, but has stayed within the Epoch Restaurant Group and has taken over Forte in Birmingham. New Executive Chef Rich Travis has taken Tribute's former highly avant-garde culinary concepts and "Americanized" them a bit...this makes me a little more than nervous for the fate of my former favorite restaurant, but I'll let you know what I think once I revisit. "Americanized," though...never a good thing to say...