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Feb 24, 2007 05:47 PM

Eight 18 Toluca Lake - my 2 cents

After hearing good things about the latest addition to the dining scene in Toluca Lake, I checked this place out this week and was generally, underwhelmed. The wine list was decent sized for a small-ish restaurant but this is supposed to be a wine & tapas bar. IMO, it isn't either. It is an amateurish attempt to be all things to some people. Part club (music playing WAY TOO LOUD), part wine bar to the uninformed and/or unintersted masses and part restaurant, though one that happens to be a mid-range SFV restaurant whose ambition clearly outstrips its abilities.

The food: I only sampled two dishes, both were okay, I suppose. Is it just me or is it wrong to call small plates tapas? My, perhaps limited, understanding is that while tapas are small plates, small plates are not always tapas.
First dish was "prawns" (read shrimp) served with a port wine reduction and pomegranate. The sauce was good enough, no real artistry, just some port and butter cooked down and plated with slightly over-done shrimp.
Next dish was a bordering on below-average snapper with yellow and red beets. The snapper was excessively fishy and the beets were sliced inelegantly, of varying thickness with no real accompaniment other than a splash of herbed oil.

One nice thing I do have to say is that our server was both gracious and competent.

The wine: as I stated above, the wine list is of limited quantity and scope. Frankly, I don't mind a small selection, as long as it is artfully chosen. This list is full of bottles that are easy enough to find at your local wine, big-box or even grocery store.
I ordered a Ken Brown Pinot Noir but the server informed me they were out. I had to go down a price point to THE ONLY OTHER PINOT on the menu. It wasn't just my chosen varietal that was lacking though, they had a few cabs & chards, a malbec, a viognier, two syrahs, one or maybe two merlot and I think, four ports - I am forgetting a few choices but honestly, that is pretty much it. One of the choices for sparkling wine was Cordoniu, to which I say, if I want to drink low-end cava, I'll go buy it at Von's.
Actually, the more I think about this place the more woefully inadequate I find it. For example, they have so-called "wine lockers" against the wall. No climate control, open air, mesh fronts, like really old gym-lockers.

The music: did I mention that it is overbearingly loud?

So, I say to you, proprieters of Eight-18, just because I live in the 818, doesn't mean that I know nothing about wine and food. IMO, the East Valley/Toluca area doesn't need yet another mediocre restaurant. However, since your establishment is doing a bang-up business, I suppose that there are a lot of people to whom, you are providing a valuable service, it just isn't one I, particularly, need.

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  1. Thanks for posting the review. I had been thinking of checking the place out, as it's close to home, so you've saved me $$$. It sounds like just another sub-par Valley place.

    1. I meant to post on this place. Yes, quite loud and sceney, but as someone who loathes massive meals and adores small plates, this place really killed that for me.

      A minute portion of Mac and cheese came out in a chewy (not crispy) parmesan basket. Probably two dessertspoon's worth. Really underwhelming.

      Cheese platter was pricey with tiny slivers of cheese.

      We also had those shrimp with pomegranates. Quite nice. Ours were not overcooked. But honestly, $9.00 for TWO shrimp? Are you freaking kidding me?

      Also I shared two carafes of a fairly decent pino noir and was charged $54 for that pleasure.

      Restaurants must love this small plates fad. So easy to overcharge for so little food.

      Also, we waited for our drinks (at least 15 mins -- not too egregious), then all of a sudden all the food and drinks arrived at the same time...

      Not going back.

      1. Guess I'm just a moron, I had a wonderful time here tonight. Maybe because my ears were ringing from an unfortunate birthday gathering at Citywalk beforehand, but I thought the music and noise level were negligible.

        The service was prompt, knowledgable, and efficient. The FIRST thing that I liked was the fact that they let you sample wines before buying an expensive glass or bottle of something you may not have heard of - not unheard of, but unusual.

        We had the paella, cheese plate, and mussels. They were ALL fantastic. AND a carafe of wine and it was $61.

        If you are interested give this place a chance. It ain't AOC but it's pretty good for Toluca Lake

        1. I tried this place for the first time on Wednesday night. It seems popular, even on a Wednesday you need to make reservations at least by the afternoon (otherwise you will have to wait for 1 hour plus). They offer seating in either the bar, lounge or dining room area. I think I made the right choice by sitting in the dinning room. The lounge looked pathetic.

          We started off with a bottle of wine. We ordered one of the least expensive bottles on the menu (around $20). Most of the wines ranged from $35-100 for a bottle. I was very happy with the wine we ordered, and have tried much more expensive wines that were not as good.

          We then ordered cheese. I think that the cheese list might be longer than the wine list. While they had a lot to pick from, they all seemed to be pretty similar. There were no off-the-wall, more interesting cheeses to sample. We ordered 2 cheeses at $5 each. The serving sizes looked like they were intended for a barbie doll.

          We then ordered the tapas. In order for the both of us to eat enough to feel full (I am a tall, but slender guy and I was with a 110 lb girl we had to order more items than I would have expected. After the cheese, we tried the Spanish omelet, mini filet with potatoes, mac and cheese, almond assortment and bruschetta. Then we still ordered dessert (chocolate moose – very good). All of this just to eat a normal-sized dinner. Only the bruschetta seemed to come in a reasonable serving size.

          After everything the bill came out to $100. I would say that it was too expensive for what we received, but the food was far from bad. If you go, expect to overspend.

          1 Reply
          1. re: msteffen

            We've been there a couple of times, and the first time was really amazing. Absolutely loved it--the thing I remember the most is the escargot tart. Flaky, buttery pastry was perfect with the garlicky, pungent snails. I also remember the braised short ribs with cornbread. The meat was melty and smoky and went perfectly with the slightly dry (but not too dry) cornbread. We took advantage of being able to taste the wine, and ended up with something very yummy. I'm no wine snob, and I can't remember what exactly it was though--a red from Spain, I think!

            The second time lacked a bit in comparison, but we still really enjoyed ourselves and the food and wine!

          2. I really enjoyed this place. My husband and I go there a lot. The wine is good, but expensive. I recommend getting a bottle. The food is really good. Small plates, but not all Spanish themed. I recommend the cheese. June the cheese expert is really good at pairing wine with cheese. It is also really interesting to talk to her.

            The staff is great. Get to know them and they treat you really well.

            The music is loud, but really good.

            I think this is what the "east valley" really needed.