All's fair between des Amis.

L'Amour, Part Deux 

All's fair between des Amis.

In the mid-1980s, three friends opened a Midtown restaurant. The trio -- an ambitious former waiter, his wife and their best friend -- came up with an interesting menu concept. And by doing much of the construction and remodeling work themselves, they turned a space once occupied by a greasy diner into a hip bistro. For the first ten months, the place was raucous and jam-packed with the in crowd, and the servers (I was one of them) made lots of money and had a blast.

It all looked like a great success, but behind the scenes, things were rocky among the partners. It wasn't long before the best friend was out of the picture and the married couple were barely speaking. Everything ended horribly, with one of the owners dying young. The restaurant finally closed, as forgotten as a Debbie Gibson remix.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the restaurant business, where friendships fizzle and partnerships implode. For a while, that was the story of the trio that created Café des Amis (see review). Fortunately, all the parties appear to have moved on to happy endings. In my original review of Café des Amis ("L'amour in Parkville," June 1, 2000), I compared the happy team of Didier Combe and his then-partners -- Megan Sparks and chef Emmanuel Langlade -- to the characters in the Francois Truffaut film Jules et Jim, in which two men are in love with the same woman.

"You were amazingly prophetic," Megan told me later, after she and Langlade had left Café des Amis and opened Aixois (251 East 55th Street). Their Brookside bistro celebrated its first anniversary on August 1.

The Langlades are awaiting the birth of their second child and carving a niche for their place as a neighborhood joint. "The restaurant has exceeded our expectations," Megan says. "And more than that. We added the coffee bar at the front of the restaurant as an afterthought, and it's always busy, seven days a week. Who knew?"

The Langlades and Combe occasionally run into each other. "When we do," Megan says, "it's very cordial. We have all come out of this pretty well. Didier has a very nice place and a lovely girlfriend."

The Langlades have a pretty nice place, too. Aixois has survived early criticism that it was too noisy and that the service was inconsistent. They've replaced the weaker links on the serving staff, but as for the noise level, Megan says, "The people who complained have either gotten used to it or stopped coming in."

Or they've headed south to complain about the noise level at the current in-crowd magnet, 40 Sardines. The downside of any trendy restaurant is that the naysayers always get there first.

But the Langlades aren't complaining. In fact, they're raving about the talents of sous chef Pascal Larcher. Larcher will soon marry Maggie Dickhut, a bartender at another Brookside neighborhood joint, the venerable Joe D's Wine Bar.

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