It doesn’t happen very often, but there are two restaurants with very similar names:
Ate 1-8 and Eight-18; the former, located in Tarzana, features an eclectic Mediterranean menu, while the latter is Brad Roen’s newest entry into the Wine-Tapas Bar scene. It is this latter, very noisy, extremely popular and most edifying tapas bar menu that we turn to in this report.
You enter from Riverside Drive into a den of high tables and bar stools; the limited banquette seating against the wall at the front were awaiting our arrival. Lest you think this is all, there is another room in the back with a large, outdoor patio for additional service. You can almost expect a crowd anytime you arrive so it’s a good idea to call Chelsea and make a reservation. There’s nothing classy in this lounge except the large display of wine bottles along an entire wall. Know that most bottles of the almost fifty varieties can be poured by the glass or carafe in prices ranging from six to twenty-five dollars for the glass; fifteen to forty-nine by the carafe. There’s no question what the best buy is. Whenever possible, choose the bottle.
Since neither of us drinks, we came to experience the tapas. There’s a list of seventeen selections of tapas, four sides and a cheese selection of fourteen varieties, ranging from mild to blues with one selection at $5 or five selections at $24.
We decided to stick to the tapas choices and order the crab cakes ($12) and port glazed prawns ($10). Though the crab cakes had a tad too much horseradish, the spicy aioli drizzled on them was quite delicious. The two large prawns were surrounded by cooked wild blackberries in pomegranate juice. The sweetness of the port glaze was a different touch and welcome surprise,
although the two prawns were barely enough to really taste and we requested another order.
This was followed by a very creamy macaroni and cheese ($7) atop a basket of crusty parmesan and topped off with sautéed arugula and bacon. My wife adored the multi-tastes afforded by this delightful dish. Unfortunately, my education in the cheese world stopped with Kraft.
The Slider Eight pulled short ribs ($12) consisted of two small buns filled with meat, caramelized onions and a horseradish relish. The combination of ingredients was novel, interesting and yes, I would love to taste this again.
Both the skirt steak with a hefty order of pommes frites ($14) and the thyme encrusted lamb chops in a morel mushroom sauce ($24) completed dinner. The steak was excellent, the fries among the best, and the lamb, delectable in a piquant mushroom sauce. The lamb comes with garlic mashed potatoes but we choose sweet potatoes which were served in cubes and were a wonderful foil for the intense flavor of the lamb. In addition, we ordered the roasted seasonal vegetables ($6); a mélange of peas, string beans, beets, carrots and broccoli which may had been the best of its kind we have ever tasted; fresh, firm and fantastic.
Now, if you have been watching those numbers in parenthesis, you can readily see that price and portion size are not exactly equal. The point is that all Eight-18’s food is quite delicious and, yes, all their food is costly, with portion size under tight control. Two shrimp at $10; two small crab cakes at $12; two lamb chops at $24; a very small piece of skirt steak at $14 lead to a total that would be blanched at anywhere else. At Eight-18, the dishes come pouring out almost as fast as the wine glasses are filled. But, between the loud music, the friendly servers and the opportunity for those singles to mix and mingle, this place would have to be called a rousing success.
Don’t miss the crème brulee cheese cake for it, too, is mahvelous! And, if anyone can hear you as you either enter or leave, keep up the drill and tell ‘em Joseph sent you!
Eight-18, 10151 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake CA 91602, Tel. 818-761-4243
Open Monday – Saturday for lunch and dinner