Restaurants and stars . . . now that has been a successful marriage of convenience, especially since the worldwide takeover of Planet Hollywood and its host of star names such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Others such as Robert De Niro, Michael Caine, Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington - to name but a few - have done it on a smaller scale, settling for smaller restaurants instead of mega-chains. What Hollywood does, Hong Kong is not far behind. With the SAR's reputation as a gourmet's paradise, it isn't surprising that local stars have embraced the business as an investment prospect. And what stronger attraction factor for any restaurant than having a famous name attached? In the 70s, singer Alan Tam Wing-lun and his good friends, including former Wynners co-horts, were some of the investors in the Tin Tin group of restaurants. While Tam and company were at the height of their popularity, the Tin Tin restaurants proved popular with the crowds, because there was always the possibility of bumping into a star or two if you knew which of the branches to frequent. The same went for the original Banana Leaf Restaurant and the Peace Restaurant in Kowloon City. When word spread that Hong Kong's Mr Cool, heart-throb Chow Yun-fat, was one of the main shareholders in the business, it became a popular star-gazing point. During the early days of business, Chow also helped business by making it a point of dining at either of the restaurants from time to time. Of course, Banana Leaf's authentic Southern Indian curry could hold its own any time. However, with Chow busy pursuing a Hollywood career and the Banana Leaf restaurants now in almost every corner of town, the sight of him, er, chowing down is no longer a frequent sight. Kung fu star Jackie Chan - who also owns shares at Planet Hollywood - probably will not be seen any time in the near future queuing up for a seat in any of the sushi restaurants belonging to Global Food Culture, of which he is chairman. But Genroku Sushi had already proved to be a popular low-cost Japanese food option for the younger set, who can be seen queuing round corners for a seat around the sushi conveyor belts before Chan bought into the listed company. On the other extreme is a nondescript, white ground-floor shop along Matheson Street in Causeway Bay, just opposite the Town Gas Centre. The only hints that it is a restaurant/coffee shop are the cakeshop set next to the entrance and the tiny words saying Wei Nin Zhong Qing outside. The upper-class variation of the Chinese dai pai dong serves a mixture of Western tea sets and quick meals. The food is average but the cosy atmosphere and the fact it is owned by former Canto-pop crooner and actor Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing has made it a popular spot. Like Chow, Cheung made it a point to drop by in the evenings during the early days of the place so it was an added thrill for giggling fans. One of the more popular places in town - especially on the colder winter nights - has been Lin Kee Hotpot at Tern Plaza on Cameron Road. The movie posters that adorn the wall clearly mark the restaurant's affiliation with Wong Jing productions and BoB & Partners, who have produced such films as Young And Dangerous and Feel 100 Per Cent. Wong is one of the main shareholders of the place, as are producer-director Manfred Wong and sultry Taiwanese sex symbol Shu Qi. A few other actors are believed to hold shares as well. Besides the main shareholders, other industry 'friends' - such as Aaron Kwok Fu-shing - have also been known to savour the mouth-numbing and delicious hotpot there. TVB actor Chan Ho-man, more popularly known for his role as the Monkey King in Journey To The West 2, has also found a lucrative sideline in a chain of Japanese eateries called Genji. Another former television face is Chow Sau-lan who recently rose above marital crises to open the Bo Kong Vegetarian Restaurant on the 12/F of Times Square. Not all the stars have been able to get a substantial bite out of their restaurant businesses. Award-winning actress Anita Yuen Wing-yee invested with some friends to open some noodle shops in Kowloon several years ago but decided to sell her shares. 'It's really difficult to have a business like that if you cannot run the business yourself or have someone in the family do that. You always end up losing money,' she told WE recently. The woman with a big voice, Maria Cordero, had two hotpot places serving the infamous Taiwanese spicy ma lat soup that gave Lin Kee a run for its money in its early days. However, the charms of Cordero obviously proved no match for Shu and Cordero closed the doors on the businesses last year. Later this year, the doors will open on Star East at the basement of the Bank of America Tower. The $50 million 25,000-square-foot restaurant and entertainment outlet - which gives the Planet Hollywood concept a local twist - will be the culmination of this stars-own-restaurants fad. Led by the irrepressible Eric Tsang Chi-wai, Tam, and Natalis Chan Pak-cheung, the entertainment group lists more than 40 big-name shareholders, including Anita Mui Yim-fong, Jackie Chan, Simon Yam Tat-wah, Julian Cheung Chi-lam and Daniel Chan Hiu-tung. As far as star power is concerned, none of the other restaurants will be able to hold a candle to Star East. However, as examples have shown, star quality alone is not enough to make or break any restaurant. Much will also have to depend on the restaurant's comfort and, most importantly, the menu.