Mense Celebrates Healthy Chinese Cooking, Canon Drive Locale
Beverly Hills Courier January 22, 2010
By Steve Simmons
Vicky Mense has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After 11 years with Lufthansa and Philippine Airlines as regional manager overseeing marketing, planning and customer affairs, she started her first business, Le Chine Wok in the Beverly Glen Center from “ignorance and ambition. I was oblivious to restaurants; failure rate.” Mense says. In 1995 when she was looking to relocate the opportunity to settle on Canon Drive came up. “At that time Canon was the outskirts of the City. It was quiet; not desirable and not popular.” Thought she deemed it a small area lacking foot traffic, Mense decided to take a chance. “People said, ‘ Don’t go on Canon, you won’t make it. I had a gut feeling to and establish my business”.
Mense was able to negotiate a “good lease” at the 362 N. Canon Dr. location that had seen restaurants come and go for 20 years. Quickly established as the local’s favorite, Xi’an offers healthy Chinese cuisine in a warm, contemporary setting. The concept, Mense says, is good food at reasonable process and removing the barriers keeping anyone from trying Chinese food. Addressing diners’ fears that Chinese food is too greasy Mense worked with a Cedars-Sinai pediatric ward nutritionist to develop healthy recipes. So at Xi’an, vegetable oil, blanching not frying vegetables and no MSG are the order of the day. “People like the concept.” Mense says. She’s known for developing an array of tofu –based vegetarian dishes and salads. “Everyone has a special need and we are trained to be flexible.” Mense said. “I tell my staff, it doesn’t matter how successful you are. You’re only as successful as your last meal.”
Shunning labels like “trendy” and “upscale,” Mense is happy to have her restaurant know as a neighborhood meeting place. “I want everyone to feel they can come in. We see all generations here.” Two blocks from Rodeo, Xi’an see “spillover” tourists, and diners from other cities, especially Malibu, Mense says. When she opened 14 years ago, one of two restaurants on the street- It was me and Il Postaio”- she approached the City to ask for some outdoor dining apace; a novel request at the time. “They asked me to submit a plan,” Mense said. “Since I was not a corner unit people would drive by in a split second. I wanted to attract attention and they agreed, so I have a little outdoor space.
Busy since day one with support from her Beverly Glen clientele, Mense is still happy 14 years after opening. “I really appreciate being in Beverly Hills because the city is so business oriented.” She shows that appreciation through involvement in the Rotary Club, on the board of the Maple Counseling Center, with Beverly Hills Global Partners, the Chamber of Commerce where she is a past president, and on the board of the Sister City Committee. “I have been grateful to work here and serve people,” Mense said, “I hope to contribute many, many more years.”
As the treasurer of the still new Canon Drive Association, Mense is naturally proud of her street. “The association is long overdue” Mense says. Focused on Canon Drive, the associations’ goals are to promote the street’s business, increase foot traffic and awareness and give merchants an organized voice. “We want to brand ourselves and create publicity and enthusiasm,” Mense said.
One way to do this is through special events. For the holiday season the association collaborated with the City, to add money to decorate the street, and then hosted an open house. Drawing more than 400 people, with drawings and prizes, “the event was the first taste of what we want,” Mense said. “The response was amazing and the energy was incredible. “I think we can create a kind of warm village neighborhood and bring in people from other cities,” Mense said. “We want people to walk on Canon they way they would walk the 3rd Street Promenade or at The Grove; and crate a place people want to be.”
Xi'an Beverly Hills | 362 N Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210 | (310) 275-3345 email@example.com