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Fit to Be Thai-ed
Punnee Benjaray, owner of Bangkok Cuisine (4137 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3606) and La Thai Cuisine (933 Metairie Road, Metairie, 828-3080), has done it again. She, her family and Thai Chef Toy Ross opened Panasia (Parc St. Charles, 500 St. Charles Ave., 299-8004) in mid-December in the former location of Gerard's Downtown. Lunches are quick and basic, offering a la carte soups, appetizers, curries and noodle dishes; dinners are more upscale, with atmosphere and a wine list, but still all-Thai. Panasia serves breakfast (American-style for the hotel), lunch and dinner daily.

Heeeeere's Johnny!
Almost simultaneously, Johnny Ryan's (Lafayette Hotel, 600 St. Charles Ave., 586-9411) opened just up the street where former New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka had his steakhouse-restaurant and sports bar. Ron Ryan, once vice president of Semolina restaurants, and wife Tricia enlisted Shaun Daigle to run the kitchen. Familiar with kitchens at Gabrielle (3201 Esplanade Ave., 948-6233) and Mr. B's (201 Royal St., 523-2078), the chef dabbles in "contemporary New Orleans cuisine" at Johnny Ryan's, putting out steaks, stuffed pork chops and at least four varieties of fresh fish daily. The restaurant's set-up remains the same, though Mr. Ryan reports that new sofas, cushy chairs and low cocktail tables have turned the bar into more of a lounge. Johnny Ryan's is open for lunch weekdays and dinner Monday through Saturday.

The Buzz
Word has it that Chef Gerard Maras and Ralph Brennan have found a location for their joint restaurant venture: the former Tavern on the Park (900 City Park Ave.). Stay tuned.

Market Watch
The Crescent City Farmers Market's New Year's resolution: to serve $7.50 Green Plate Specials at the Tuesday market, each month introducing a new resident chef. January's chef is Greg Surrey of Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar (1418 Magazine St., 524-3828), who will serve spanakopita or meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes this week. In further news, the Thursday market will now run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. instead of from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Look for The French Table (3216 W. Esplanade Ave., 833-8108) Chef Danny Galindo's cooking demonstration this Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. The Tuesday market is at 200 Broadway St. and runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Thursday market is at 3700 Orleans Ave. and runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Saturday market is at 700 Magazine St. and runs from 8 a.m. to noon. Call 861-5898 or visit www.loyola.edu/ccfm.

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