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Eight 18 Toluca Lake - my 2 cents

  • bodie Feb 24, 2007 05:47 PM

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.

            1. I went there twice last wk. Once for a business meeting. Both the food and service was great. We ordered the mini burgers, mussels and mac n cheese. My colleague thought it was the best mac n cheese she ever had. Our lovely waitress offered to bring us extra bread to soak up the wonderful broth the mussels were served in. I went back later with my husband and had terrible service. When we asked for extra bread, our waitress aid sure and din't bring it until the broth was cold. She brought out 3 tiny pieces of bread so we had to ask for more. When the bill arrived, we saw that we were charged $3 for 3 slices of bread...whereas the night before, the waitress offered extra bread and gave it to us for free. We were tempted to complain but it was so deafening loud and service so slow that we just wanted to leave. Will never go back there again.

              1. 818 in Toluca Lake-STILL LAME!!!
                I posted this a while ago but for some reason it was removed...hopefully it can help some others...avoid if you have good sense.
                I had been to 818 on Riverside during the first month they had opened...wanted to like it...did NOT.
                Service was a nightmare and the 3 items that I had ordered were sad...how can one call a salad ugly...well, after trying to eat one of them, all I could think was: ugly, messy, terrible flavor. (No longer on the menu)
                Let's not get me going on the wine list on that visit.
                Another friend said give it another try...I tried a month later...ugg...I was mad I had given them my money again.
                Last Sunday, one of my friends was telling me how much he enjoys going there and I told him about the menu items I had sadly tried and he told me that there was a new chef and that the menu is totally different and that they change up the wine list quite often...hmmm, got me wondering about it again since the area is handy for my friends who live in Sherman Oaks/Studio City to meet the others of us in Glendale/Eagle Rock/Atwater Village to meet for drinks and bites at a half-way point.
                Then I saw FAT BILLY mention it on the BOARDS the other night and I figured I may as well give it one more try...I am a glutton for punishment I guess...ugg.
                Last night, meeting a great Studio City friend for a catch up session, we decided to meet there since I was to be coming from teaching 2 classes in Atwater Village (Ballet Technique and Contemporary Ballet), I was going to be hungry and I had really earned my wine for the evening.
                My friend thought of the place next door (we havn't been there yet) but then realized it's quite loud in there so 818 sounded good since we could hear eachother...he hadn't been 818 yet and I had decided not to tell him the prevoious horror stories...he DID get to experience them first hand.
                I got there before my friend, sat at the bar and was greeted with a GLARE from the sorry little tart behind the bar...I guess I would be a little bitter too if my employer forced me to wear some god-aweful camoflauge legging on an ass-less rear-end. Why would they put these girls in those hideous pants....ooop, back the "food" and "wine" (whine).
                So "ass-less-tart" doesn't even acknowlege me except for her glare. Another girl (oh, those pants were even...oops, I'm getting off track again) comes over and leans on the bar in front of me and says "yeah?". I say "hello." She says: "well whaddaya want."
                Geepers, such lovely personalities to go with those great camo-pants. I asked for a wine list (ha ha) and a menu, she slaps them down and leaves.
                WINE LIST-whatever. Overpriced and not appealing...I decided to be off beat and get a glass of CAVA because I cannot justify $12 for a glass from a $15 retail bottle of Pinot...I may be exaggerating, but that is how it felt. I also ordered the CAVA since I hope that these people read the BOARDS and I knew a random glass of CAVA would make it obvious who is writing this post and they could be aware of the service, wine, and food issues.
                FOOD-yeiks. Some of the menu items looked great and I would say I would have liked to try a few other things but my friend had already eaten, and after the first app that came out, I did not have much faith that other things that required true attention would come out good.
                The Prawn/Chorizo skewers over saffron risotto sounded great..and golly, I was really hungry.
                What they served me: 2 skewers (I'm talking about the sticks) that were charred enough that you could tell that at one point they had maybe caught fire or at least started smoking...one shrimp was BLACK on one side and lighty "charred" on the other and the piece of chorizo was a little black hunk of coal...the other skewer was only slightly burnt to a crisp...yeiks...I scraped off some charcoal and ate a hint of shrimp and one piece of less-black chorizo and pushed the rest to the side...the risotto was ok but a bit odd (I had to eat something, I was hungry).
                No one came to check on it till my friend needed another drink. He ordered the bruschetta...it was good, but how could you really "F" that up?
                I mentioned the skewers to the girl, she shrugged and took it away without a word, but I did see her take it to a "chef-looking" guy...nothing was mentioned after that.
                The bruschetta came and my friend kindly said "you can just bring us another bruschetta in place of those poor skewers"...she said nothing and left...the second order came and luckily when the bill came they didn't charge for our lumps of coal...I love being a naughty girl, but only Santa is allowed to bring me lumps of coal and at least I don't have to eat or pay for them.
                Now, 818 does have one plus side...if you like to people watch, it's great...a good collection of wanna-be hipsters who missed the boat by about 5 years trying to get lucky after their divorces...tragic, desperate housewife ladies from the valley who tried to get dolled-up for the evening who will be easy prey for any guy who sounds like he knows anything about wine...if you like new boob jobs, short shorts, and guys in their golf shirts, you'll have a great time as long as you don't care too much about the food.
                OVERALL: NOT WORTH IT...if I was in a bind and someone else wanted to pick up the tab, I would go, order some cheese and some meaty bits (they do a lovely presentation of all that stuff-no big feat), and a glass of wine (it's not that bad, I was just bitter) and enjoy watching the funny pick-up scene.
                For all y'all who like it-enjoy...I'll stay on my side of town and drink good wine and eat good food and enjoy pleasant service.

                1. i agree, not worth it. extra bad service, extra loud. i cannot remember any restaurant who charged us $12 for extra bread. ever.

                  1. I can't believe it is still in business. Food was average, limited menu, and prices are high for portion size. Wine is overpriced. Bar area is so noisy the hostess cannot respond to telephone calls. Back room is cold in temperature and appearance. I left hungry after spending $145.