The spat between Mr. Chow and Philippe looks like a love-in compared to the one between Hamptons restaurateur Ed “Jean Luc” Kleefield and business associate Lyle Pike. They’re embroiled in a dispute that has resulted in numerous police visits: Kleefield says Pike was just a lender in his four restaurants, Madame Tong’s, Grappa, JLX Bistro, and Prime 103, and that he has been paid back the $400,000 he was owed; Pike believes he’s actually an owner and has tried to lock Kleefield out of Madame Tong’s. Earlier this week, Kleefield turned himself in to Sag Harbor police to face charges that he signed bad repayment checks totaling almost $300,000. He can’t go into details about that, but tells us, “My mistake was trusting someone and doing something with a handshake with a guy who turned on me like a viper.” Still, Kleefield is optimistic — he tells us the State Supreme Court just granted a stay preventing Pike from interfering in the operation of his restaurants; his vendor debts are down from an initial $500,000 to around $80,000; JLX will reopen on July 4 with a new bistro and sashimi menu, and (most intriguing of all) he’s planning a return to Manhattan, where he once owned Jean Luc Bistro on the Upper West Side.
Though Kleefield won’t divulge the exact location because he’s still in “heavy negotiation” for a long-term lease, he’s aiming to tap into Battery Park’s underserved population. “There isn’t a Raoul’s or a Cub Room or a Mercer Kitchen there — nothing hip, cutting-edge, with great food that’s innovative and reasonably priced, where you can get a bento-box special or a great bistro burger to go.” Kleefield says the restaurant — to be named JL Sushi and Steak, JLX Bistro, or something that gets away from “Jean Luc” altogether so that it won’t be associated with all the bad press — will seat 140 (possibly with a 3,000-square-foot basement for private dining) and serve what he describes as a classic bistro menu, a steak menu, a full assortment of à la cart sushi, and dishes such as Kobe beef tartare, halibut over couscous, and a spin on seafood paella royale. “I’d love to be able to touch what the Bromberg family did with Blue Ribbon, but with more of an emphasis on steak.” He’s hoping for an autumn opening.
Kleefield admits that his current troubles have put a hiccup in negotiations (“it’s been extremely challenging to keep the restaurants afloat — absolutely brutal,” he says), but he says his potential landlord, as well as a new “extremely established and well-respected” partner, are fully behind him. “The economy just completely crushed everyone. So many people are happy to say, ‘He’s going down, he’s finished,’ but I’m still standing. I’m pretty upbeat, dude!”